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What does 'legalisation' of a document mean?

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Legalisation is the process by which the signature and seal of the Notary are authenticated by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and/or the Embassy or Consulate of the country in which the document is to be used. This is generally required by countries who are signatories to the Hague Convention. Legalisation requirements are determined only by the country where the document is going, not by the UK government. You can also check whether a country is a member of the Hague Convention at

Documents going to countries which are, or have been, part of the British Commonwealth seldom need legalisation nor, at present, do documents going to many parts of the United States.

Many countries require only one certificate from the FCDO called an Apostille and this costs £40.00 per document. Your Notary and consular agent will charge an additional fee for dealing with this aspect.

The FCDO is located in Milton Keynes and , using a consular agent to deliver and collect the document, an Apostille stamp can be obtained within 2-3 days.    The FCDO charges £35.00  for an e-apostille and this is a much quicker service time, although it depends if an e-apostille will be acceptable to the receiving party.    The FCDO offers a premium service with a 24-hour turnaround at a cost of £100 per document (plus courier fees) but this is only available in rare circumstances where extreme urgency can be demonstrated.

Some countries want the Apostille from the FCDO and a further certificate from their own Embassy. This will take longer. There are other procedures that apply only to a few countries, and there can be problems if a document is to be used in a country with which the United Kingdom does not have diplomatic relations.

Your Notary should be able to tell you in advance what legalisation will cost, and fees can be high for some commercial documents, for example, those being processed by the UAE Embassy and certain others.

It is possible for a client to send a document to the The Legalisation Office at the FCDO themselves, by  completing an application online at the following link: . You will be provided with the relevant address details to submit your documents to upon completing your application.  However, the cost for such a postal application is £45.00 and the processing time is 2-3 weeks, so you may decide to delegate the task to the notary and/or consular agent in order to achieve a speedier result.


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