In pursuance of legalising a document with the apostille the document must have an identifiable and verifiable signature of a recognised legal official or a seal from the appropriate legal authority. This signature or seal is verified by the apostille authority in the country the document originates from and, subsequently, the apostille is issued to verify this signature or seal on a document.
In the UK the apostille authority is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO have a secure, growing database of signatures of legal officials within the UK that is used to assess the authenticity of a signature of the legal official on a given document.
In the event the signature of the legal official has not previously been verified and is not yet on this database, or if there are any queries with the signature, the FCO will contact the signatory in question to request verification of the signature and the capacity in which the document has been signed.
The vast majority of legal signatories in the UK will have, at some point, been verified by the FCO. Because of this, most apostille orders are completed in as little as 1-2 working days. In the rare event, a signature has not previously been verified this can delay the apostille process.
Verifying the Capacity in Which a Document Has Been Certified
In addition to verifying the signature of a legal official the apostille also verifies the capacity in which the document has been certified. Documents should be certified in the correct capacity in order to be eligible for the apostille.
As an example, a medical report created and signed by a solicitor does not have the same legal value as a medical report created and signed by a medical practitioner. A medical report prepared by anyone other than a medical practitioner is therefore ineligible for the apostille.
Likewise, an entry of a birth, marriage or death is certified by a registrar in their capacity as such. A solicitor or notary, for example, does not hold the same legal standing to certify that a record of a birth, marriage or death is accurate. For this reason, any registry documents must be signed by a registrar, or stamped by the General Register Office in order to be eligible for the apostille.
The FCO will check the capacity in which a document has been certified and this will be confirmed on the apostille certificate itself.