For the purpose of legalising a document with an apostille, the document must bear the stamp of a recognised legal authority or, alternatively, the signature of a public official or a solicitor. Many documents will, therefore, require some form of solicitor certification as part of the legalisation process.
There are various forms of solicitor certification and the most suitable depends on the nature of the document.
Certifying the Originality of a Document
One of the most basic forms of certification involves the solicitor certifying the fact that the document in question is original or, by extension, a true copy of the original.
This is often used when certifying academic certificates, employment letters and identification documents to name a few examples.
Upon presenting the original documents to a solicitor they can certify the original, or a copy thereof, with some degree of confidence. The solicitor may wish to carry out additional verification checks for certain documents.
Witnessing a Signature
Certifying the originality of a document is not always suitable. If the document contains any form of declaration it is best practice for the document to be signed in the presence of a UK solicitor or notary public. The solicitor or notary will then certify the document with a statement to say, for example, ‘signed in my presence’.
This is recommended when certifying affidavits, statutory declarations and power of attorney documents. Whilst these documents can be simply certified as being original documents they may be rejected overseas if this were to be done.
The solicitor will often request that identification is also provided before certifying the document.
Certifying a Digital Document
As of January 2018, the regulations for certifying electronically issued documents have been updated by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The issuance of electronic documents is becoming more prevalent and many documents, e.g. p60s, court documents and employment documents, often exist in an electronic format only.
Following the update to the certification requirements, digital documents must now be certified as being a ‘true copy of the original electronic/PDF document’ by the solicitor in order to be eligible for legalisation. It is no longer sufficient for the document to simply be certified as being a true copy.
How Should a Document be Certified?
When certifying a document for the purpose of the apostille there are certain certification criteria the solicitor must adhere to.
When the solicitor or notary public signs the document, they must:
- have a valid practising certificate
- sign the document in the UK
- state the action they have taken eg witnessed, certified a copy, confirmed as original
- use their personal signature, not a company signature
- include the date of certification
- include their name and company address
The signature should also be an original ink signature. Digital or copy signatures are suitable.
How can we help?
We can assist with the certification and legalisation for the vast majority of documents. If you need a document to be solicitor certified and issued with the apostille please contact us for guidance.