What is an Apostille?
An Apostille is a certificate attached by the U.K Foreign & Commonwealth Office which confirms that a document has been signed by a notary or other public official and that the notary or public official is a notary (or Companies House officer, Birth and Marriage or Death registrar, etc. in the United Kingdom.) The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office is the Competent Authority in the United Kingdom for issuing Apositlles. They sign and place their seal on the Certificate and attach this to the Notarial document or public document to confirm its authenticity in the United Kingdom. It is, if you like, a further layer of verification.
The Hague Convention specifies the procedure through which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the other signatory states. ‘Apostille’ is French for ‘certificate’ is comparable to notarisation in domestic law and supplements the local notarisation of the document. Click here for a link to a list of signatory states. If your country is a signatory to the Hague Convention, then usually certification by a UK notary along with an Apostille will make the document legal in the destination country. Wikipedia also provide a useful summary of Apostilles.
There are two ways to obtain an Apostille from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. They operate a postal servicing centre where the notarised document or public UK document is sent to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office with payment proof and application form and they place the Apostille on the document before dispatching it to a nominated address. You can do this yourself, click here for a link to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office. The postal method is the cheapest way of obtaining an Apostille in the UK and we are happy to guide clients through the process. If you are in a rush or if the document is very important and you do not wish to lose control of it through the postal system, it is best to go with the Premium Service and we can get an Apostille for you in the same day, maintaining control of the document at all times.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office postal service, from our experience the process can take between 5 to 15 working days. Please click here for a link to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office website.
If you would like us to handle the legalisation of your notarised document, we apply a charge for doing so. Please enquire for our current charges. Please note that we only use the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office Premium Service. If the matter is urgent then we have access to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office Premium Service in London. We send a courier to this office every day. In this case the courier drops off, waits and returns to our office where you can collect the document. This is a same day service for obtaining Apostilles in London. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Legalisation Office current charges are set out here.
We apply a charge to cover the cost of the courier and for making the administrative application and payment. Please enquire for our current charges.
Why do I need an Apostille?
The reason for the Apostille is that on seeing the Apostille, the receiving party, whether an individual, a business or a Government body, can be even more confident that the document has been properly notarised.
Essentially, as clients have put it to us : The notary confirms that the person or people signing the document understands it and confirms their identity by seeing passport or other acceptable proof of identity and a bill or other official document to confirm address. Then, the Foreign Office confirms the document has been signed by a notary, and puts on the Apostille as proof of that fact.
We arrange legalisation every day. So if you need things done urgently – get in touch with us and we will guide you through the process.
The Apostille system was created by a treaty called the Hague Convention on the abolition of consular legalisation. Signatories to this convention accept the Apostille as proof of the authenticity of the document (or legalisation of the document).
Not all countries have signed the treaty. Where this is the case even those countries that have not signed this treaty still require notarisation then Apostille, then they also ask for the documents to be stamped at their own embassy. The UAE, and many other Arab states do this, as does China and Brazil has recently added Apostille before their Consulate will stamp a document. There is a guide to this under our Services heading on the Home Page.