True cost of legalisation

At Vital Consular, we pride ourselves on being honest and transparent. We regularly receive amazing feedback from customers who have not only saved a lot of time and money using our services, but have appreciated the confidence our friendly and professional team have given them. In this article, we wanted to give true costs of doing the process yourself, to give you all of the facts you need to make an informed decision.

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One of the questions we are sometimes asked is, “why does legalisation cost so much?”. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, it can seem costly at first glance. However, once you break down the individual stages, the specialist knowledge required and the time involved, it suddenly becomes not only justified, but well worth it.

As many of our customers are based overseas, they are the ones who will save the largest amount of time and money choosing to have their documents handled by someone already in the UK. But even if you haven’t yet left, there is still a long list of benefits to having an agent complete the legalisation process for you.

The legalisation process, step-by-step

If you’re overseas and you’ve decided to return back to the UK to process your document yourself, these are the steps involved. Of course, these will vary dependent on your document type and your destination, but we have chosen our three most popular countries (China, the UAE and Qatar) as examples.

Travelling back to the UK

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All documents need to be legalised in their country of issue. Therefore, if you have a UK degree, Police Certificate, TEFL, or anything else, it will need to be handled within the country itself.

This would require a return flight to the UK, which can vary between £450 – £750 to London Gatwick. This can increase greatly if you need to travel with short notice. Once you arrive in London, which is where most of the UK Embassies are based, you will likely need to take a taxi, train or tube ride to your hotel which could cost between £10 – £50, depending on where you’re travelling to.

Hotel stay and locating a Solicitor

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Once you arrive in London, you’ll need a place to stay. There is a huge choice of hotels, but to be relatively central in order to access all of the services you’ll need, the minimum you could be spending between £800 – £1000 for a two week stay at a mid-range hotel.

Remember that if you’re travelling from abroad, there would currently be the possibility of additional costs and time in pre-booked quarantine accommodation, which must always be paid by the individual.

Once you’re settled, then the legalisation can begin.

For most documents, you’ll need to have a certified copy made by a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) registered solicitor. This is an important point, as neglecting to check this out can result in issues and further delays down the line.

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The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) were formally known as simply the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), prior to a change of name in late 2020.

A certified copy should cost around £10 per page.

Apostille at the FCDO

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The next stage for UK documents is having the Apostille applied. These can only be issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

As the FCDO no longer accept in-person applications from individuals, the only option is to make a postal submission. Under normal circumstances, it can take up to 10 working days for your document to be returned to you.

All requests must first be booked and paid online, before you print off a reference receipt and post it together with your documents to the FCDO address. This costs £30 per Apostille, which will be required for each document you submit (they can not be bundled into one) plus a combined tracked postage cost of £13.50.

Embassy / Visa Processing Centre

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This is where the most variation in process arises. Some Embassies only allow in-person appointment-based submissions, some only accept postal applications and others will handle either of these methods.

The cost of a Consular stamp ranges from £22 – £37.40 per document, providing they are not commercial documents.

UAE

If you are applying for a Consular stamp from the UAE, you will need to post your documents (£13.50 postage costs), which can take around a week to be processed, plus postage time to and from the Embassy.

All payments must first be made online in AED prior to submitting your documents, which will generate a legalisation acceptance receipt. This must be included with your documents when you post them to the Embassy.

China

A document for China must be submitted in-person at one of the four Visa Processing Centres in the UK (London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast). In order to attend one of the centres, you must book an appointment online. You must then attend the Visa Centre and wait to be seen in order to submit your application. The closest tube station to the London Visa Centre is Mansion House.

Although you submit your documents at the Visa Centre, they must still be validated and stamped at the Embassy itself. This takes around 1 week if successful. You must then attend the Centre again to collect the documents with your receipt.

Qatar

Only postal applications are open to individuals. You must send your Apostilled documents to the Embassy with a cheque and a self addressed envelope with the correct postage applied.

The total costs of legalising a document yourself

We took the average costs involved in processing the standard suite of documents required for each country we chose as our examples, taking into account all legalisation fees, travel and accommodation.

CountryAverage cost for legalisation of documentsTime
Chinafrom £1,735 for 3 documents (Degree, TEFL and PCC)20 day average
UAEfrom £1,391.50 for 1 document18-20 day average
Qatarfrom £1,806 for 4 documents (Degree bundle and PCC)22-25 day average

These are the average costs to travel to the UK and process the paperwork if everything runs smoothly. Whether this is is your first time legalising a document or not, things can go wrong.

Even if you’ve legalised documents before, you may find yourself confused by varying requirements. This is because even if you’ve been through the procedures for one country, each country has it’s own unique set of requirements, so things may not be the same this time around.

What if I’m still in the UK when I’m legalising my documents?

Even if you’re still in the UK, many people choose to use a legalisation service to ensure their documents are completed correctly, first time. There are lots of other benefits to using a specialist like Vital Consular which make it excellent value for money, including:

  • Pre-processing document checking service
  • 100% money back guarantee
  • Access to faster processing speeds when you need them the most
  • Specialist knowledge on all the processes
  • Save time and money by avoiding costly mistakes you may be unaware of
  • Simplicity: post your documents to us and receive them back completed
  • Single point of contact, so you don’t have to speak to lots of different organisations

What can go wrong when it comes to document legalisation?

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There are an array of additional costs which regularly come up for those who aren’t prepared, including:

A notarial cover sheet required for China: starting at £150.00 + VAT

If your document is longer than a single page, it will need to be bound and sealed by a Notary Public before it can be accepted by the Chinese authorities. You may also need a Statutory Declaration if your documents do not match your official ID.

FCDO delays: additional hotel costs

The FCDO only accept postal applications from individuals, which on average take up to 10 working days. However, during peak periods, this can regularly take several weeks to be completed.

There is no way to speed up or enquire as to when it will be returned to you, so it can often simply be a waiting game.

FCDO rejection: additional hotel and solicitor costs

If you haven’t prepared your document for the FCDO correctly, or there is another issue with the paperwork, they will return it to you with guidance notes. You will then have to resubmit it, possibly having to have the documents re-certified once they have been corrected.

Embassy rejection: Issue with the document or application form incorrectly completed – additional Apostille costs of £30 per document, re-certification fees and hotel costs

There are a range of reasons your document may have made it this far, only to be rejected at the final hurdle. This is generally the worst stage to fall flat, as any documents you’ve submitted could well need to be re-processed from scratch. This can end up being a very costly mistake.

Just because a solicitor has certified it, and the FCDO have Apostilled it, this doesn’t automatically mean that the Embassy will stamp the document. Each government department has their own guidelines and as long as your documents meets them, they will process it, not taking into consideration the next stage.

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Embassies can often change their requirements at very short notice without any warning. This can cause issues if their websites haven’t been updated and you need additional documents or processes you didn’t allow for. Being unable to get through to speak to someone at an Embassy is a constant issue for many people to confirm details.

Embassy delays: additional hotel costs

Only a handful of Embassies now offer same-day processing for Consular stamps. This is providing there isn’t a backlog of documents and there are no holiday closures or other measures in place.

Most other Embassies only allow postal applications from individuals, such as the UAE and Qatar. On average, they take at least 1-2 weeks to be processed, but at peak times can take up to 3 weeks or more.

These Chinese Embassy only accepts in-person applications at one of their Visa Processing Centres. In busy periods, appointments are scarce and difficult to obtain once they are released. When you are able to get an appointment and attend the Centre to submit your documents, they usually take around 1 week to be processed.

How can using Vital Consular for document legalisation help?

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Whether you’re in a rush and need your documents ASAP, or you’ve planned well ahead of time and looking to save money, we have an option for you.

CountryLegalisation and delivery cost on Standard serviceStandard Speed
China£541.95 for 3 documents (Degree, TEFL and PCC)14 day average
UAE£223.95 for 1 education document12-16 day average
Qatar£562.95 for 4 documents (Degree bundle and PCC)15-20 day average

The above table shows the average costs and timescales for Vital Consular to process your documents on our slowest Standard service, and courier them to you overseas. There is a saving of up to 80% on the cost of legalisation, as well as your precious time travelling around.

We also offer 2 faster speeds of service, which can be completed in as little as 2-3 days dependent on the destination country. Our urgent services will still save you a lot of time and money when compared to doing it yourself. We can offer the quickest speeds from our base in London, with access to the business-only urgent services.

If you would like any further help or advice, please get in touch. Feel free to leave a comment, get in touch via WhatsApp, or use our live chat system You can also request a quotation for legalisation directly here.

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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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