There are various terms used to refer to the process of legalising a document from one country in order to be recognised in another country. You may have been asked for your document to be notarised, authenticated, legalised, attested or issued with the apostille.
This can be confusing as different authorities use different terms that, more often than not, refer to the same process. We are frequently asked what the difference is between legalisation and the apostille.
This article aims to clarify the similarities and differences between the various confusing terms that are often used when you have been asked to present your documents overseas.
What is an Apostille?
In order for a document from one country to be legally recognised in another country, the document will usually need to be legalised in some way. This will usually involve some form of certification from the country the document originates that is recognisable in the country the document will be used in.
The apostille. is a widely recognised means to achieve this. Quite simply, the apostille is a form of certification issued in one country that is recognised in any other country that is also part of the Apostille Convention.
In the UK, the apostille is issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office which is also known as the legalisation office. This is often one of the main causes of confusion. However, if you intend to present your UK document in a country that is part of the Apostille Convention the terms apostille and legalisation refer to the exact same process. The document will be legalised via the issuance of the apostille certificate.
What is Legalisation?
For the most part, the term legalisation refers to a document being issued with the correct stamps or certificates in order to be recognised in another country. As above, this will refer to a document being issued with an apostille when the document is being used in a country party to the apostille convention.
However, when documents are being used in countries that are not part of the apostille convention, further legalisation steps may be required. In this instance, documents would also require legalisation from the respective embassy. As an example, a UK birth certificate for use in the UAE would need to be legalised via the apostille and also by being stamped by the embassy. The stamps that embassies issue to documents are commonly referred to as attestation.
In many cases, we can also assist with the embassy attestation for UK documents where appropriate.
Other Terms that are Used
The following terms may be used to refer to a document being legalised:
- Notarisation – In general, this refers to a document firstly being signed by a notary public. This is common for affidavits, statutory declarations and power of attorney documents. Authorities in some countries will, confusingly, use the term notarisation to instead refer to the apostille and embassy attestation process.
- Attestation – This will usually refer to a document being stamped by a particular embassy. In some cases, this can refer to a signature being witnessed.
- Authentication – The term authentication is typically synonymous with the term legalisation. This is in the sense that a document will need certain stamps or certification in order for the document to be authenticated for overseas use.
Many of the terms used to describe the legalisation process can be interchangeable or have different meanings in different contexts. It is recommended to clarify exactly what is needed with the authority to whom a document will be presented.
Our services will ensure your documents are correctly legalised as per the requirements of the country in which they are to be presented. Please contact us today for advice.