Online Qualifications – Which Embassies Won’t Accept Them?

Have you received any online qualifications from the Open University, or any other distance learning program? It's possible that the document will not be accepted by certain foreign embassies.

This post is part of a series

Click the button below to navigate to different parts of this series.

What We’ll Cover

  • Why some countries won’t accept this learning mode

  • Which countries are likely to reject them

  • How you can get around the restrictions

  • How you can get help determining what your options are

The Open University is approved by the British Government as an awarding institution, allowing their qualifications to be verified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as such be accepted in a wide range of overseas destinations including the UAE, Kuwait and China. Other countries however, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia will not accept these qualification types for legalisation.

Why won’t these online qualifications be accepted?

Whilst Open University degrees are increasingly becoming as valued as those achieved in “brick universities” here in the UK employment markets, there are still issues when it comes to having these recognised overseas. The sticking point for online and distance learning qualifications is that for Qatar, you must provide additional supporting documentation from your college or university which can verify that you attended a genuine course, for the full duration and did so in-person on one of their campuses.

Qatar has stated that on some occasions, they can accept Open University degrees if they were studied at a “brick university”, which is sometimes done when both institutions run the course in conjunction. If this is the case, it will be worth checking whether you can have this stamped at the embassy, as long as your paperwork explicitly states the name of the university you studied at. The university you attended must be able to supply a letter which meets all of the requirements for the Qatar legalisation process, including verifying that you attended the full course in-person.

Saudi Arabia is another country which currently will not accept distance or online qualifications for the legalisation process. The initial stage which must be completed for all degrees going to Saudi Arabia, is the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau (SACB). This is a free online service which requires you to upload your degree to their website. The Cultural Attache at the embassy will then contact the awarding institution to authenticate the award, before applying their stamp and returning a scan to you.

One of their stipulations is that you must have attended a course in-person and be able to verify with the college or university directly that your course is genuine and it was you who completed the work, which is difficult to regulate if the course was taken at distance or online.

What can I do if I have a distance learning degree?

If you’re attempting to legalise a document from a distance learning organisation that isn’t the Open University, you are unlikely to have this stamped by the Qatar Embassy. Their requirements for their supporting letters are stringent, so the letter must state explicitly the mode of study and where the course took place.

It is difficult for individuals to know if a document will pass through the entire procedure without any hitches, as the FCO may add an Apostille to your document and declare it as genuine, before it is rejected further down the line.

Therefore, when planning to move abroad, it may be prudent to send your next highest educational document when attesting your certificates for another country, to eliminate any doubt about whether your document will be accepted or not. Be sure to check with your new employer if they are happy to accept another award in place of your degree or above, first.

You can read more about employers and the acceptance of online degrees in part 2 of our blog post here.

I’m not sure if it will be accepted, what can I do?

If you’re unsure if your document will be accepted or not, we’ve got you covered. We’ve got knowledge of the attestation process for most countries, so our experience colleagues across the globe can answer all of your queries. If you have an enquiry, you can request a quotation through our site here, give our team of specialists a call on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp on mobile, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

Although certain countries are unlikely to accept distance learning degrees for legalisation, all hope is not lost. There are ways, in some situations, where you can still make it overseas to your dream job. Make sure you understand the application guidelines for a work permit in the country you wish to work, and let your employer know your issues directly. They are usually more than happy to help you with any visa issues. If you still have questions or are unsure if your award will be accepted at the Embassy, just get in touch with us.

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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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