Certified or Notarised – What’s the Difference?

When it comes to legalisation, unfamiliar terminology can often cause confusion to those who are not well versed in the processes involved. Some terms, such as "legalisation" and "attestation" can be used interchangeably, but essentially mean the same thing. Others, such as "certified copy" and "notarised copy", require a clear distinction and can be the difference between a document being accepted or rejected when presented in your destination country. Here we will present the differences in a clear and understandable way!

What We’ll Cover

  • Why you would need these processes for legalisation

  • What certification involves

  • What notarisation involves

  • Which process you may require for your needs

Understanding the process

A notarisation or certification is usually the first stage in the legalisation process. This prepares the document for the next step which is usually an Apostille or other stamp from the issuing country’s government. This is simply validating that the document is genuine, or taking a true copy of the original to receive the stamps to keep the original clean. This is not acceptable in some instances, such as a UK birth or marriage certificate which must always be done on the original.

On occasion a notarised copy may be requested, but because of differences in terminology between one country and another, this could still be referring to simply obtaining a certified copy. If your HR department has sent a document requirement list which mentions a notarised copy, we highly recommend clarifying this point. This could potentially save you additional time and costs!

A Certified Copy

A certified copy of a document can be produced by any registered solicitor. This is not a verification of the information contained within the document, but simply a declaration that the solicitor has had sight of the original document. A photocopy will be taken, which will be stamped, signed and dated by the solicitor. Taking a certified copy is useful if you wish to have a document legalised whilst keeping your original clean.

For education awards, this is perfectly acceptable to be sent to the FCO and Embassies. If the document is longer than one page, it will not be accepted at the Chinese Embassy unless it has been bound by a notary as detailed below.

A certified copy is generally quicker than obtaining a notarised copy. If validity of the information contained within the document is required, supporting documents could be requested from the institution which issued the document. Keep in mind that the solicitor must be registered with the FCO in order for this to be accepted for an Apostille.

A Notarised Copy

A notarised copy of a document can only be produced by a Notary Public. They will personally verify the information contained within the document with the awarding institution, attach a notarial cover sheet to the document detailing their findings and declare the authenticity of the document’s contents. This is a more in-depth and secure option and is often required when the legitimacy of the information contained within the document is of high importance.

This process is generally longer and more costly than obtaining a certified copy from a solicitor. Some countries such as the UAE will no longer accept qualification documents for legalisation with a notarial cover sheet. China will only accept documents longer than a single page if it has been verified and bound with a ribbon by a Notary Public.

Which should I opt for?

When it comes to deciding which process you should put your documents through, it’s always best to check requirements with whoever you’re presenting the documents to in-country. Usually, a certified copy will be accepted for most legalisation purposes, though this depends on where the document was issued and the destination country. The type of document can also have an influence on the process.

Unless a notarised copy is specifically requested, we can determine what to do with your documents by understanding your personal circumstances. As we have an in-depth understanding of each country’s requirements, we can advise you accordingly.

Get started

If you require documents legalising for use overseas, we can help. We can handle documents from any country, to any country, with our unique global network of specialists. You can use our live chat system, give us a call on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, message us on WhatsApp or e-mail us at sales@vitalconsular.com.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

There are key differences between the process of certification and notarisation within the UK. In most instances, only certification is required. By not understanding the differences and opting for notarisation, you could spend more money than necessary and, in some circumstances, have your documents rejected by choosing the wrong process. It’s always best to speak to a specialist to avoid any unnecessary delays in process and to avoid spending money when you don’t need to.

Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

Articles: 137


  1. Hi I have a diploma which was issued in the UK, and an online TESOL how much would it cost to noterize both these documents please note I have no hard copies of the TESOL which was issued by a Canadian company.

    • Hi Andy, if you would like to drop an email to us at sales@vitalconsular.com with a copy of your digital TEFL certificate you received, we will be able to provide a quotation and timescale to have this legalised for you.

      Best regards, Melanie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *