Legalisation is the process that confirms that the signature, seal or stamp on a public document is genuine. Documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates, powers of attorney, court documents are examples of the types of documents that can be legalised.
An apostille is the certificate that is attached to a public document confirming the signature, seal or stamp on the document is genuine.
The apostille certificate must contain the following information:
- Country of issue
- Name of the person who signed the document
- The capacity in which the person signed the document.
- Details of any seals or stamps in the document
- Place of issue
- Date of issue
- Issuing authority
- Certificate number
- Stamp or seal of the issuing authority
- Signature of the representative of the issuing authority
This is what an apostille looks like:
The apostille was created by the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. This means that countries that have signed up to this Convention should accept a foreign document bearing an apostille as genuine, without the need to obtain stamps or further certifications from their consulate.
If you would like to know which countries have signed up to the convention, visit the Hague Conference on Private International Law website for an updated list.
In the UK, the Legalisation Office, which is part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is the only organisation authorised to issue apostilles. They are based in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
You can find more information about legalisation on our website.