What is document legalisation?
Legalisation is the process of attaching an apostille certificate to a UK document, to confirm that the original ink signature of the UK public official, and/or the original embossed seal/ink stamp of a UK public office, on the document are genuine. In the UK, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is the sole government entity responsible for issuing apostilles. For other countries it will vary, depending on their rules and regulations.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office was previously called Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The merger was announced by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2020, announcing the FCO and Department for International Development (DFID) to be one.
It is often a requirement by foreign authorities that documents are legalised before they can be used for official purposes in their country.
Legalisation does not certify the authenticity of a document or give foreign and commonwealth office approval of its content.
The legalisation office is the only competent authority in the UK to provide an apostille service according to the requirements of the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, and to deliver a legalisation service to those countries not party to the Hague Convention.
Submitting documents to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office:
- In order for us to submit a document for attestation purposes, we will require the whole document. This includes all pages and ensuring the page bears the signature/certification. If the document has page numbers, and some pages are missing, before rejecting the document as incomplete, check to see if the text/sections of the pages are continuous. If they are, it could be that the missing pages are blank or are just guidance notes etc. and are therefore not required.
- If the FCDO receives a document which bears an embossed or ink seal which is borderline illegible, the processing officer will use their individual judgement to determine if there is enough of the seal present for it to be verified against the image they hold. If the seal cannot be verified, the document should be rejected.
- If a document refers to annexed/attached/enclosed documents, then the referenced documents must be included.
- If the document received already has an apostilled attached to it, which has previously been issued by this office, but the client now requires a more up to date apostille, they can attach another apostille to the document. The old apostille should not be removed.
- Documents that include photocopies of apostilles previously issued by the office can only be legalised, if the photocopy does not contain a reproduction of the signature or seal/stamp, and we can see no clear evidence of tampering or alterations. If the photocopied apostille has been issued overseas, the signature or seal/stamp can be reproduced as the FCDO has no knowledge of overseas copyright rules.
- If a document for legalisation has an overseas original apostille attached, they can only issue an apostille, if the date of the additional action carried out in the UK is after the date on the overseas apostille
- An apostille cannot be attached to a laminated document. However, the FCDO can however legalise a notarial/solicitor cover sheet securely attached to a laminated document.
- The majority of UK public documents will be signed by a government official. This may also include a seal or stamp from the relevant authorities.
- Documents must be signed by an official within their rightful capacity, e.g. A doctor should only be signing a medical report and not an educational document.
- If a document has two or more certifications e.g. A solicitor and a notary public signature, the FCDO will use the highest authority signed and the most recent.
Documents can be submitted for legalisation in the following formats:
Original – A physical document generated by the issuing authority and handed or posted to an individual. This is because the document will include features that can only be produced by the issuing authority e.g. an embossed seal, an embedded hologram, or printed on watermarked paper. The document may also bear an original wet ink signature or seal.
Photocopy (of an original)
Scan (of an original – printed from an email)
PDF/E Document – Received by the applicant via email directly from the issuing authority and printed, or downloaded by the applicant from the website of the issuing authority and printed. The document may contain an electronic/digital signature or seal. The source document is only held as an electronic image.
All printouts of PDF and E-documents which do not contain an original wet ink signature and/or an original wet ink or embossed seal of the issuing authority/document originator must be certified by a UK Notary or Solicitor
Some business documents can be certified by an official from the chamber of commerce.
If the documents are presented under a cover sheet from a notary in England and Wales, the underlying documents must be securely bound to the cover sheet as follows:
- Book bound
- Metal rivets
- Metal rivets with a legal corner
- Metal rivets with ribbon/string
- Ribbon/string with a notarial seal attached
- Staple with the notarial seal over/under both sides of the staple
The following are not acceptable:
- Staples with or without a legal corner
- Paper clips
- Ribbon/string through a hole punch
What personal documents can the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) accept?
Form of Authority
Power of Attorney
Power of Proxy
Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs)*
British library certificate*
Certificate of competency*
Certificate of free sale*
Certificate of naturalisation*
Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI)*
Certificate of freedom to marry*
Change of name deed/deed poll
Charity Commission certificate
Coroner Certificate/Post mortem report
Criminal Records Check (Disclosure/Police Certificate)*
National Crime Agency (NCA)
National Identification Service (NIS)
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
Gender Recognition certificate
General Register Office certificates
Government Department issued document
HM Land Registry document
HM Revenue and Customs documents
Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation
Certificate of (Fiscal) Residence
Certificate of Registration for Value Added Tax
Certificate for Fiscal Authorities Abroad
Certificate for Taxation Purposes
Letter of Confirmation of Residence
Self Employed confirmation letter
Home Office document
Licence (Air Traffic Controller/Boat/Driving/Pilot)
Local Authority/Council issued documents
Pet export/travel document
Ship registration document
Grant of Probate
Last will and testament
Statement of arrangements for children
Court of Appeal
Court of Bankruptcy
Court of Protection
Court of Session
Family Division of the High Court of Justice
High Court of Justice
Supreme Court of England & Wales
Supreme Court of Judicature
Articles of Association
Memorandum of Association
Certificate of Good standing
Certificate of incorporation
Certificate of incumbency
Certificate of registration
Certificate that a public company is entitled to do business and borrow
Change of a company name
Current appointments report
Minutes of a meeting
Register of Directors
Register of Members
Register of Officers
Note: If any of the above documents belong to a company registered within the British Overseas Territories, these documents will be required to go through a notary public rather than a solicitor.
Lasting Power of Attorneys: Enduring Power of Attorneys (EPAs) were replaced by Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) in October 2007. A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that lets an individual appoint one of more people to help make decisions, or to make decisions on their behalf. This gives the individual more control over what happens to them if they have an accident or an illness and can’t make their own decisions e.g. they lack mental capacity. There are two types of LPA, one for financial decisions and one for health and care decisions.
Note: The LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before it can be used.
British Library certificate: Ecclesiastical Church registrars from India, were held by the India Office of the FCO after independence. These include birth, marriage, death, baptism records. These registers were passed to the British Library in the mid 80’s to be held in trust on behalf of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Members of the public can obtain copies of entries in the registrars.
Certificate of competency: A certificate of competency is a document issued under the provisions of the International Convention of Standards of Training, Certification and Watch Keeping for Seafarers. The holder of the certificate is entitled under the Merchant Shipping Act to serve in the capacity specified, usually ‘master’. This document can only be processed on a copy, signed by a solicitor or notary public
Certificate of free sale: Certificates of free sale are normally issued by the Department for Health, the Department for Business, Innovation and skills (BIS), the Department for International Trade, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) or the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), and will generally relate to the sale of medicinal products, animal feed or alcoholic drinks
Certificates of Naturalisation: These documents are issued by the Home Office/UK Border Agency (UKBA)
Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage: These certificates are not used by the General Local Register Office (GRO). They are issued by the Local Register Office (LRO) (https://www.gov.uk/register-offices) A certificate for marriage is a certificate issued by the Local Register Office (LRO) when British subjects are marrying locals from the Commonwealth countries. It will not automatically be signed by a register. Therefore, it is important the CNI is signed by the registrar named on the CNI.
A certificate of freedom to marry is issued and signed by an authorised person/minister of religion or secretary for marriages. Documents cannot be presented unless it has been certified by a solicitor or notary public
The Police National Computer (PNC) holds details of people, vehicles, crimes and property that can be electronically accessed by government departments, police forces, criminal justice agencies and criminal records disclosure services.
A disclosure document is a copy of an individual’s criminal record. There are three different types of criminal record checks. These are basic, enhanced and enhanced with barred lists. A disclosure document is issued by the following:
- Access Northern Ireland
- Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) for England & Wales
- Disclosure Scotland
A police certificate is issued to people who to emigrate to, or obtain a visa for certain countries. This is usually required if you are taking a post working with children, especially for teachers. The certificate details whether or not the applicant has a criminal record in the United Kingdom and is required as part of the visa process by the respective high commission or embassy. Police certificates are issued by National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) ACRO Criminal Records Office (apply here at: https://www.acro.police.uk/police_certificates.aspx)
A Subject Access Request is an individual’s right of access to verify the information held about them on police computers. This is usually issued by the NPCC ACRO office. You may need to apply when applying for visas for certain countries. E.g. Saudi Arabia.
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