I need an apostille - who can arrange this for me?

What exactly is an apostille? What can they be used for? And, crucially, exactly who is legally entitled to arrange one on your behalf?

Firstly, let me explain what an apostille is.  It is a stamp and a small piece of paper that is attached to the back of your document that certifies who I am to other countries, and that my signature and seal are genuine, and that I am able to sign or attest your document.  They are issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).  Sometimes an apostille can be applied directly to a document, so you don’t have to have it notarised or certified first.  This is typically for government-issued documents.  For example, it could be a birth certificate, an ACRO certificate or documents provided by HMRC.  They key to knowing whether or not this can be done is checking if it is an original document and that there is a verifiable signature or seal on it.  Without these, documents typically need to be notarised before an apostille can be attached.

There are other requirements, such as many documents have to be originals.  No documents issued by the General Register Office (GRO) can be photocopied due to Crown Copyright, so no birth/death/marriage/civil partnership/adoption certificates.  All police checks must also be sent to them as originals too, it doesn’t matter if they are notarised first, they still must be originals.

If you need to check how your document must look, the FCDO has a handy document-checking tool on their website that will tell you what documents they will accept and whether or not it needs to be authenticated first.

I can arrange for an apostille to be attached to your document, but to be clear, I cannot attach it myself.  I think that sometimes the process can get lost in translation.  The easiest way to think of apostilles is as a checking system.  The apostille checks the signatory can sign the document, be it a notary or government official.  My signature and seal is registered with the FCDO and there shouldn’t be problem having an apostille attached to a document I have notarised.  Sometimes the FCDO will reject documents from government officials or doctors who haven’t registered their signature, and at the moment they are not checking these as they used to.  Unfortunately, I cannot tell beforehand who has or hasn’t completed this process, I honestly wish I could.

At the time of writing (June 2022) the FCDO are taking up to 15 working days to complete an application I post to them directly, sometimes a few days longer to have a courier collect the document for an overseas shipment.  We can have it completed in two working days via an agent.  This is more expensive but can be received by you or the intended recipient within a week.

You may have also been requested to get a document legalised.  Sometimes it is an apostille, but sometimes what they need is for the document to be sent to an embassy or consulate of the destination country and they will confirm the apostille.  It is another verification layer.  Every embassy is different, and each have their own fees and timings for completing this process.  I use a reliable and discreet consular service agent to obtain what you need, and all costs and fees will be provided to you in advance.

Sometimes it is hard to know exactly what you need, and the person who has prepared or requested the document from you, will be able to tell you what they need. However, it is always worth checking precisely what they expect to receive from you. If this is something that you need assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact me.