Across the world, bodies receiving documents that have been notarially attested often require then to be ‘legalised’. This is an internationally recognised process whereby the notary’s seal and signature (or sometimes that of another public officer) are verified at governmental level in the notary’s country. It is not the verification of the document itself – that is done by the notary – but of the notary’s existence and attestation.
For the countries, 105 at the current time, that are party to the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, each country recognises an apostille certificate issued by the country where the notary is situated as satisfactory evidence of the document being signed and sealed by the notary in question. The apostille is a small certificate fixed and sealed to the notary’s certificate.
Other countries, notably the People’s Republic of China, many Middle East countries and Brazil, have not signed-up to the 1961 Hague Convention. Bodies in those countries typically require both an FCO apostille and a stamp or certificate form the UK consulate of that country.
Legalisation can be expensive. Typically, one apostille will cost £30 at the FCO (£75 for the same-day service) together with the consular agent’s handling fee, totalling about £40. The cost varies widely where consular legalisation is also needed.
Since the apostille/consular legalisation relates to the notary’s certificate, not to the underlaying document, it is often possible for the notary to create a secure bundle, comprising the notarial certificate and a number of documents certified through that certificate. This incurs a single legalisation charge and can therefore be cheaper than notarising/legalising documents separately.
I will always help my clients to save costs where possible. However, my clients need to note:
a) some countries do not permit this, notably the United Arab Emirates, where documents must be notarised and legalised separately; and
b) the body receiving the document may have its own requirements for individual notarising and legalising. Since requirements for the form of notarised documents vary widely across the world, I recommend that my clients check if multiple documents can be ‘bundled’.