Document Verification, Legalisation, Notarisation, Authentication or Attestation?

Who would imagine that there are so many terms for essentially the same concept? The process of taking a document issued in one country and making it legally recognised in another isn't exactly a straightforward process, but it is often made more complicated by differing terminology. Here we will explain the differences (and similarities) between these terms and clear up any confusion.

In this article

What We’ll Cover

  • What the different terms mean

  • What the processes involve

  • The main differences between the processes

  • How to determine which one you need

Why are there so many names for the same thing?

Although steps and processes to differ, dependant on several factors, it is often the case that terms used for the same processes differ too. This can cause a whole host of confusion for those needing to process their documents for use overseas. 

We often find that terms can be country specific, such as in the UAE where the process is generally referred to as “attestation”, where in the UK it is most widely known as “legalisation”. Both of these terms refer to the process of making a document issued in one country legally recognised in another by going through a series of checks and stamps by government offices.

In the US, however, things get even more complicated. Documents issued in the States can be handled at both a state-level as well as national, dependant on where the documents are being presented.

As the US is a part of the Hague Apostille Agreement, if the document is being presented within another Hague Convention country, a simple Apostille is applied by the state in which the document originates from. This is sometimes referred to as “Apostillisation”.

If however, the document is destined for another country outside of this Agreement, such as China or Qatar, it must go through a more rigorous series of checks by the Department of State. In the US this is known as “Authentication” and happens in place of being Apostilled.

What is the Hague Convention Agreement and which countries are a part of it? Read our blog post on this topic to find out here.

This initial in-country stage differs from the processes in other countries, such as the UK, which only applies an Apostille to the document regardless of its final destination.

With all of the different terminology out there, what you actually need in your individual case can be difficult to determine by simply searching online, as there are many factors to consider.

What is the process that these terms all refer to?

There are a series of steps required to make your document recognised in a country other than that in which it was issued. Although the steps do vary dependant on the issuing country, document type, document purpose and destination country, there are usually 3 main stages:

  • Verification within the issuing country
  • Verification by the Embassy of the destination country which is located within the issuing country
  • Final stamp approval once the document reaches the destination country

For example, if you held a degree certificate issued within the UK and wanted to apply for a position in the UAE, you would need to complete the following steps:

  • Solicitor certification – optional step where a copy of your degree is made by a solicitor to keep your original clean
  • Apostille stamp – this is applied by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a section of the UK Government
  • UAE Embassy stamp – this  must be applied by the UAE Embassy in London, as the document is UK issued
  • MoFA stamp – once the document reaches the UAE, the government there will apply a final stamp to verify the Apostille and Embassy stamp are genuine
uk Apostille
A sample of a UK Apostille

Some are much simpler procedures, whereas some can be much more complicated, including translations and more in-depth analysis by government officials. You may even need to have your document notarised by a Notary Public at the start of the process, rather than simply certified by a solicitor.

What is the difference between Solicitor Certification and Notarization? Read our blog post on this topic to find out here.

If you’re unsure of what you need to present your documents, it is always best to speak to an expert who can advise you on your individual circumstances. 

Why is this process even required?

Because documents across the globe differ so much in their presentation, it would be difficult for anyone to be confident of the authenticity of a document they’re not familiar with. For example, a degree certificate in the UK is generally presented as a single A4 sheet of paper with the details printed or hand-written by an authorised official. However, a Russian degree certificate looks similar to a passport-style document, holding a photo of the student as well as their award details.

To avoid any uncertainties at the genuineness of a document, the process of legalisation was introduced. This gives assurances from the issuing country’s government that any document which bears its official stamp is genuine.

This greatly alleviates any possibilities of falsified documents being presented overseas. In the case a translation is also required, legalisation can also assist in ensuring that a translation is a true representation of the original document.

How can I find out which process I need?

If you’re relocating overseas and you’ve been asked to legalise your document because you’re applying for a work permit, or any other official reason, we can help. As we have a global network, enabling us to handle documents to and from practically any country, we understand the complexities involved.

Simply get in touch with one of our friendly specialists today who can advise you on the processes. Don’t waste time trying pinpoint what you need from all the misinformation out there, only to find it’s incorrect and you need to start again!

You can send us a message via WhatsApp, or e-mail us at sales@vitalconsular.com. If you prefer, you can request a quotation using our form here. We’re on hand to answer all of your queries.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

With so many terms for what essentially seems like the same thing, it can be difficult to know where to start. Always remember that processes vary and you need to start with your own personal circumstances in mind before you can decide on which steps to take. Look for information which applies to not only your destination country, but the country in which your documents were issued too. If you’d rather speak to someone directly, simply get in touch with our team.

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Melanie Clarke
Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.
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