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  • Writer's pictureMatt Fogarty

Certified, Apostilled, Legalised, Attested and Notarised

So many words, that in some cases, can mean exactly the same thing. These words can get lost in translation a little and the specific meaning of each one can be lost making it a little tricky to work out what some people need. Let’s have a look at them individually and see if we can demystify this a little for you.


Starting nice and easy, this one is pretty straightforward. Certification provided by a UK Solicitor. This can be provided on either a copy of an original as a “true copy”, or on the original document itself.

Many documents, even foreign documents, can be copied, certified and apostilled in the UK. There are some documents that cannot be copied to be apostilled, they include; Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Certificates of No Impediment, Adoption Certificates, ACRO Certificates and some others.

Original Certification:

Copy Certification:


The process of having a document ‘legalised’ (we’ll come back to this!) for use in a country that is a signatory to the Convention of 5th October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, or more snappily known as the Hague Convention.

A small certificate is placed on the reverse of the document, if it has been correctly presented, and an embossed stamp will be made through both it and the document in question.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK government are the only body that have the authority to issue the apostille in the UK. The Apostilles Group and all other 3rd party suppliers work with the FCO and no single company has a favourable relationship or service level with them.

An apostille:


Here we go with the first of the potential double-meanings and confusion! Legalised is commonly used as an alternative to ‘apostilled’ BUT, it can also be used to mean a separate process that happens after a document has been apostilled, when it needs to be used in a country that isn’t a signatory to the Hague Convention.

This can also be called attestation, please see below.


For countries that aren’t signed up to the Hague Convention – and even some that are – another process needs to be completed before the document can be used in the relevant country.

This will typically take between 2 and 7 days and examples of the countries involved are:

Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, China, Thailand, Vietnam and many others.

The list of member of the Hague Convention can be found here.


The explicit meaning is that a document needs to be notarised by a UK Notary Public. In 90%+ of cases though, this isn’t necessary. This is an expensive process and if it doesn’t really need to be carried out, you could save yourself a lot of money.

It’s worth checking when someone asks you to have a document ‘notarised’, whether or not a Notary Public needs to be involved or if they are using the word ‘notarised’ to cover the entire process – this is pretty common. Usually a solicitor certification will suffice.

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