CREDENTIALS (lettres de créance), a document which ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary, and chargés d'affaires hand to the government to which they are accredited, for the purpose, chiefly, of communicating to the latter the envoy's diplomatic rank. It also contains a request that full credence be accorded to his official statements. Until his credentials have been presented and found in proper order, an envoy receives no official recognition. The credentials of an ambassador or minister plenipotentiary are signed by the chief of the state, those of a chargé d'affaires by the foreign minister.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)