‘Legalising’ documents: What does this mean and what do I need to do?

If you are dealing with a matter with an overseas element, it is highly likely you will be asked to ‘legalise’ your passport/other ID documents or a document you are signing. This provides verification that the paperwork you are providing is authentic.

What does ‘legalising’ a document mean?

You may have had documents for use in the UK certified by a solicitor, school teacher, accountant, police or another individual with authority. For UK paperwork, the recipient of the document can look up the person who has verified the copy or execution of the document, contact them directly and ask for verification. However, this is not so easy if the individual who has verified the document is in a different country.

When dealing with a transaction or matter with an international element, a document will often need to be ‘legalised’. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (‘FCO’) or the UK embassy for the country adds a seal to the document to confirm that it is genuine and/or it has been executed legitimately to safeguard against fraud.

What kind of documents need ‘legalising’ for use abroad?

Various documents may need to be legalised for use in another country, including:

  • Passports, driving licences and other ID documents
  • Educational certificates, including GCSE, A-Level and Degree certificates
  • Powers of Attorney permitting foreign lawyers to buy or sell property overseas on your behalf
  • Foreign Court documents
  • International contracts
  • Other documents that require your signature

How can I ‘legalise’ a document?

You can visit the FCO or relevant embassy – however, this would require you to travel to the FCO or the country’s embassy in the UK and there is no guarantee they will add their seal to the document. An easier option is to instruct a Notary Public anywhere in England and Wales.

A Notary Public’s signature and seal may enough in itself, instead of legalisation by the FCO or embassy. However, if you have been asked for the documents to be legalised too, our Notary Public can help.

Our Notary Public will carry out enquiries to ensure the documents are executed properly or the copies being certified are genuine. Once all the enquiries are complete, you will only need to visit our offices briefly to sign documents or provide originals to photocopy. The rest of the transaction can be progressed remotely.

Our Notary will then add his signature and seal to the documents (he will ‘notarise’ them), then send them to the FCO or embassy for legalisation an, arrange secure delivery abroad if required. As our Notary will have carried out all the required checks, you can be certain that the FCO or embassy will add their seal to the document once it is notarised.

If you have been asked to get a document legalised, please contact our Notary Public by emailing notary.public@emsleys.co.uk or calling 0113 232 1030. Our Notary will explain the process, the costs and what is required in more detail.

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