Frequently Asked Questions
Whilst we're happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the legalisation, or attestation, of documents for use overseas, here you'll find some of the questions that are regularly asked (and answered)...
What’s an Apostille?
An example of a UK Apostille
An Apostille stamp is a form of authentication added to documents to allow them to be used in member countries of the Hague Convention. Apostilles are usually requested by foreign authorities and organisations in order to accept a document as genuine and so they can be used for official purposes abroad.
Once an Apostille stamp is added to a document, it becomes valid for use within the Hague Convention member countries. An Apostille Stamp is also known as an FCO Apostille, as the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) is the governmental body that issues them within the UK. To find out more about Apostille legalisation and how to get an Apostille stamp, see our full article on Apostilles here.
Member countries of the Hague Convention (established in 1961) will recognise and issue Apostilles for the international legalisation of documents. Follow this link for a full list of more than 116 member countries of the Hague Convention.
The validity of an Apostille depends on where you intend to use it. Technically, an Apostille never expires once issued, however there are some situations which can change this.For example, if you have an Apostilled document and later decide to move to certain countries outside of the Hague Convention, you may be required to re-process this stage. One example of this is China, where any paperwork you present for your Work Permit application must have been Apostilled within the last 6 months.Therefore, the Apostille itself hasn't technically expired, but the document itself is not fit for purpose for use overseas in this instance. Therefore, with so many variables, we always recommend you check the requirements on a case by case basis to avoid any delays or lost fees by processing a document erroneously.
If the country in which you wish to use your UK or Irish document is listed in our article here, you will only require an Apostille for legalisation. You can get your document legalised by placing an order through our legalisation office for the UK Apostille Service here, or an Irish Apostille Service here.Dependent on the destination country and the institution to which you are submitting the document, you may also require translation. We can also provide this service if required. Get in touch for a quotation here.
These terms are used mutually to mean the same thing. Essentially this is the process of validating documents by one country to be used in another. For countries that are not part of the Hague Convention, this will need to be carried out by representatives of multiple countries on the same document, usually the country of issue and the country where the document is being presented.
Legalisation of a document is typically required where there is a need to present an official document or certificate to a country other than the one that issued the document.
The purpose of this process is so that your UK documents will be recognised and accepted overseas. This would include applying for a Visa, Drivers Licence, Passport, Medical Registration etc outside of the UK.
This process is not usually needed if you are applying to an overseas British authority such as a British embassy or High Commission, for example when applying for a replacement passport to your own embassy. If in doubt you should check the requirements with whoever you need to present the document to.
Our service will allow you to legalise, or attest, any UK-Issued document for use outside the UK. We can also carry out the process for documents issued in Ireland or British Overseas Territories such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands or Bermuda. Additionally we can legalise documents issued within a British Crown Dependancy (Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and the Isle of Man). Check our Documents we can Legalise page for more information on the document types we can process.
Although the process may vary depending on the country you need to have your documents prepared for, or the kind of documents you are processing, the Attestation and Legalisation process usually includes: the certification of the document by a solicitor/Notary Public, the addition of an FCO Apostille, and further Consular Legalisation by the country where the document will need to be used.
Legalisation processes varies dependent on several factors, including:
If your document needs translation before or after the legalisation process, we can also handle that for you. You can have your document translated into over 170 different languages by our professional translators, who always work in their mother tongue.
In most cases we will require the original document to legalise it. For documents such as educational certificates and commercial documents, we will usually then certify the original and carry out legalisation on the certified copy. In most cases, we can carry out legalisation on the original if this is preferred, but please note that this is not a legal requirement.
You can, but some issues may occur. For example, delays can be experienced if your solicitor’s signature isn’t held on the FCO’s database of recognised sample signatures. In cases such as these, the FCO will ask your solicitor to send a copy of their signature so they can add it to their database, which naturally leads to a delay in processing. Our solicitor’s signature is stored at the FCO’s system so the FCO recognises their signature and the legalisation process can go forward without delay.
There are some reasons why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would not stamp a document. These include:
Certificates produced by governmental bodies such as Birth, Marriage or Death Certificates, Decree Absolutes, Wills etc cannot be legalised if they have been laminated. In this case, we would need have an new copy reproduced so the work is carried out on that one instead.
In the case of Educational Certificates, or any document that requires certification by a solicitor, certified copies will be always be produced and the work will be done on those copies so your original document remains clean. As such, lamination will not prevent us from legalising your document(s).
Are supporting documents such as Passports or ID cards required in order to get my documents legalised?
In most cases, we do not require identification documents to be able to legalise your documents. This is because we are validating the document, not the person. There are some circumstances where a photocopy of your passport may be required, for example when legalising documents for use in Saudi Arabia. If this applies to you, we will contact you to arrange this.
Vital Legalisation consists of a team of specialists. You can be assured that your documents are treated with care, attention to detail, and a consistent, professional manner. For any document held within our offices during the legalisation process, for example when we are legalising a copy of an original document, your original documents are stored safely to prevent damage or loss.
You can place your order directly on our website, following the process from the Order Online page and selecting the country you want to order legalisation for. Alternatively, one of our Expert Advisors can also arrange your order over the phone.
You can pay for your order with a Visa, Maestro or American Express Debit/Credit card, though PayPal, Bank Transfer (EFT/BACS) or by Cheque.
The legalisation office you need to send your documents to will depend on the speed of service you are going for.
Note: Please do not send anything to us without a confirmed order reference number. This will be provided to you at the time of your order either online or over the phone.
For either STANDARD and EXPRESS orders, please send your document(s) to our legalisation Head Office in West Yorkshire:
Vital Certificates Ltd
For URGENT orders ONLY, please send your document(s) to our London legalisation office:
Vital Certificates Ltd
Please be aware that documents sent to the incorrect legalisation office will lead to a delay whilst we arrange to transfer your document(s) to the correct office.
The time taken to complete your work will depend on the speed of service you have chosen (Standard, Express or Urgent), as well as the time required to ship the document to and from our offices in the UK. Please add in sufficient time for shipping when choosing your service speed. As a general rule, UK shipping is overnight, whilst overseas deliveries will take longer. Here are some standard courier shipping times to and from the UK:
For an accurate delivery time, please contact us.
We always process documents as soon as we receive them and do whatever is possible to meet the required timescales. Please bear in mind however that we are dealing with government offices and delays can occur either at the FCO or at the Embassy. These delays are very rare, and whilst out of our control, we would inform you as soon as we are made aware to allow you to plan accordingly.