We aim to make the apostille process as simple as possible. Simply send the document to us and we take care of the rest. But what does this process actually entail? This article provides an overview of the different elements that make up the apostille legalisation process.
The UK apostille is ultimately issued to verify the signature of the legal official, or seal of the legal authority, who certified a given document. Certain documents will already be signed by a recognised legal official. A registrar may certify that the record of a birth, marriage or death is accurate or a general practitioner may sign a medical report certifying the contents of the document are correct as a case in point.
Not all documents will be signed by a recognised legal official as standard. Where this is the case the document will require certification from a solicitor or a notary. The reason for the certification is determined by the nature of the document. A notary may certify a document to confirm they have witnessed an individual signing said document. A solicitor may certify a copy of an academic document to confirm that it is a true copy of the original document they have seen.
We can provide the solicitor certification, where needed, for many documents. Once we have checked and verified the document our solicitor will certify this as appropriate. This may involve contacting an employer to verify an employment document, a university to verify an academic record and so forth. The solicitor may add their signature onto the actual document, a certified copy thereof or a cover sheet attached to the document as appropriate.
The certification of a document; whether by a solicitor, notary, registrar, medical practitioner or otherwise, is predicated on the fact that the document is a genuine, recognised legal document in this country.
Verification of the Signature of the Legal Official
The next part of the process is for the document to be presented to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO are the authority in the UK authorised to issue the UK apostille.
The FCO have a secure database of signatures and seals of legal officials and authorities already known to them. Initially the certification on a document will be cross-referenced against this database. If the signature can be verified on this basis, which occurs in most circumstances, the FCO can proceed with the next step of physically issuing the apostille.
If the signature cannot be verified with these preliminary checks then the FCO will endeavour to contact the signatory in question. A written request, typically via email, will be sent to the signatory asking for confirmation that they have signed the document and also the capacity in which they have done so. Once the signatory has responded in the affirmative the FCO can proceed with the next step of issuing the apostille.
We present documents in person to the FCO to ensure the documents remain safe and to facilitate a quick processing time when there are no delays with verifying the signature. The vast majority of apostille orders are completed in just 1-2 working days.
Issuing the Apostille
Once the document has been checked, certified and the signature has been verified by the FCO they then issue the apostille certificate to the document. This certificate is attached to the back of the document and will confirm the following 10 points:
- Country of issue
- Who has signed the document
- The capacity in which the person signed the document
- Details of any seal on the document
- Place of issue
- Date of issue
- Issuing authority
- Apostille Certificate number
- Stamp of issuing authority
- Signature of representative of issuing authority
This is the standard format of the apostille recognised by authorities in all countries that have signed up to the Hague Apostille Convention.
Once this has been done we will collect the document from the FCO in person and return this to you as per your delivery instructions. We usually complete this full process in just 1-2 working days.
This process will involve some changes to the document. Namely, the apostille is a certificate that is permanently glued to the back of the document. The FCO will also emboss this with their government seal which leaves a raised impression on the document.