Legalisation (adding an apostille)

Having a document legalised means that the U.K. government will confirm that the signature, seal, or stamp on the document is genuine — so that it can be used in another country.  It does not guarantee that the contents are genuine, or that the document is legally valid.

For a U.K. document (such as a deed poll or statutory declaration), it’ll first have to be certified by the Legalisation Office of the FCO (in the U.K.).  Thereafter, it depends on which country you need to use your document:

Apostille Convention countries

If your document is going to be used in a country where the Apostille Convention is in force ↗, an “apostille” will be stuck on to the document, which is a small certificate in a standard format, saying that your document is genuine.  It doesn’t need to be certified again by the country where you want to use the document.

This applies to all countries in the EEA, plus Argentina, Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, U.S.A., and most other countries in Europe.

Other countries

For countries where the Apostille Convention is not in force — such as Brazil, Canada, China (but not Hong Kong), or Pakistan — your document will be legalised in a slightly different way.  It’ll have to be certified by —

  • the Legalisation Office of the FCO
  • then (possibly) by the embassy / high commission (in the U.K.) of the country where you want to use the document
  • then by the Foreign Office / Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country where you want to use the document

Once you’ve sent your document to the FCO to be legalised, though, they will obviously be able to tell you where you need to have it certified next.

Not all countries need you to have your documents legalised.  You don’t need to have any (foreign) documents legalised for use within the U.K., for example.

When you need to have a deed poll legalised

Legalisation is required when documents have to be used and recognised abroad (that is, outside the U.K., or at a foreign embassy in the U.K.).  The most likely times you’ll need to have your deed poll legalised are —

  • if you’re getting married abroad
  • if you’re emigrating to another country
  • if you want to apply for a visa to enter another country
  • if you’re a foreign national living in the U.K., and you want to change the name in your foreign passport
  • if you want to apply for an overseas residence card, e.g. —
    • for India: an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) or PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) card
    • for Pakistan: a NICOP (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) or POC (Pakistan Origin Card) card

If any of these cases applies to you, you should find out first whether or not the country where you’ll use the deed poll needs you to legalise your documents — and what their exact requirements are.

Legalisation can only be carried out by the FCO.  If a document has been legalised, it means that the FCO have confirmed the signature on the document to be genuine — in which case they’ll attach an apostille to the document.

The FCO can only confirm the signature of a U.K. solicitor or notary public with a current (U.K.) practising certificate, so a solicitor or notary public must either act as your witness, or else (if you’ve already executed your deed poll) they must certify your deed poll.

The witnessing or certification must satisfy the following requirements:

  • If the solicitor or notary public doesn’t witness the deed poll themself, they should write somewhere on the deed poll, “I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this document” (or something similar)
  • They should use their personal signature, not the company signature
  • They should clearly print their name and their firm’s name under the signature
  • If they haven’t witnessed the deed poll themself, they should print the date of certification
  • If applying a notarial certificate to a deed poll, there must be a detailed specific reference to the deed poll behind it.  The deed poll must be attached to the notarial certificate.
  • If a notary public from England, Wales or Northern Ireland signs a deed poll for legalisation, they must also stamp or emboss the deed poll with their notarial seal.  A notary public from Scotland may also use their notarial seal, but they’re not required to do so for the purposes of legalisation.

You should also read the FCO’s instructions on how to apply for legalisation ↗.  (Note that they refer to a deed poll as a change of name deed.)

If you want to find solicitor or notary public in your area, you can contact the relevant society or faculty office:

Certification

To be able to have a document legalised, it must first be certified by a U.K. solicitor or notary public with a current (U.K.) practising certificate.

If your document has already been witnessed by a solicitor / notary public, then the testing clause (the part where the witness signs the document) will be taken by the FCO as the certification.  Otherwise, you’ll need to ask a solicitor or notary public to certify the document.

To certify an original deed poll, the solicitor / notary public should write:

I hereby certify that I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this deed poll

To certify a copy of an original deed poll, the solicitor / notary public should write:

I hereby certify that this is a true copy of the original deed poll seen by me

Note that to have your deed poll legalised, it must be certified (as well as being originally executed) in the U.K. itself.

How to get your deed poll legalised

Please follow the instructions on the GOV.UK website ↗ to send your deed poll off to be legalised by the FCO.

Frequently asked questions

Who can legalise my deed poll?

The Legalisation Office of the FCO is the only body that can legalise a deed poll which has been executed (signed and witnessed) in the U.K.

If you’re currently outside the U.K. you’ll have to post your documents to the Legalisation Office in the U.K.  You cannot have your deed poll legalised at a British diplomatic mission for example.

Can I legalise a statutory declaration or affidavit as well?

Yes — deed polls, statutory declarations, and affidavits can all be legalised.

All the advice on this page applies to statutory declarations and affidavits too, except that a statutory declaration / affidavit won’t need to be certified, because — if it’s been done correctly — it will always have been witnessed by a solicitor / notary public in the first place.

Can I legalise a photocopy of my deed poll?

Yes, so long as it has been certified as a true copy of the original.

Bear in mind though, that this does not apply to all types of document.  Photocopies of birth / marriage / death certificates and certificates of no impediment, for example, cannot be legalised under any circumstances.

Can I legalise my deed poll if it’s been laminated or mounted on card?

No.  If possible, you should remove the plastic laminate / card (without ruining the deed poll).  Otherwise, you would need to order a replacement document.

My deed poll wasn’t witnessed by a solicitor, but I’m now abroad — how do I get it certified (and legalised)?

So long as your deed poll was executed (signed and witnessed) in the U.K. itself, you can still have it certified (and then legalised).

You have two options for getting it certified:

  • Take it to your local British embassy / consulate / high commission, and ask them to certify it (or to certify a photocopy as a true copy).  There will normally be a fee for this service, and not all diplomatic missions will offer the service.
  • Send it to a solicitor / notary public based in the U.K. to have it certified.

Note that if your deed poll was originally executed outside the U.K. you won’t be able to have it legalised in the U.K.

My deed poll was witnessed by a U.K. solicitor / notary — do I still need to have it “certified”?

No — so long as the solicitor / notary public had a current U.K. practising certificate — you don’t need to have your deed poll certified as well.

If your deed poll was witnessed by a U.K. solicitor, notary public, or public official, then the testing clause (the part where the witness signs the document) will be taken by the FCO as the certification.  They don’t need it to be certified again.

My deed poll was witnessed in the U.K. by a foreign solicitor / notary — do I need to (and can I) still have it “certified”?

Yes, you’ll need to have it certified by a U.K. solicitor / notary public with a current U.K. practising certificate.  Then it can be legalised by the FCO on the basis of that certification.

My deed poll was executed abroad (outside the U.K.) — can I have it legalised in the U.K.?

If your deed poll was executed outside the U.K. by British embassy staff, then it can be legalised by the FCO, although if you’re going to use it in the same country where it was executed (signed and witnessed), the authorities in that country would normally accept it without it being legalised — they’ll recognise the signature of the embassy staff as genuine.  In any case, you don’t need to have it separately certified by a solicitor / notary public.

Otherwise — if your document has been witnessed outside the U.K. (or at a foreign embassy in the U.K.) by any other person — your document cannot be legalised by the FCO in the U.K.  It can only be legalised in the country where it was executed (signed and witnessed), because it is considered (by the Apostille Convention) to have “originated” from that country.

If you need to use the deed poll in the country where it was executed, then it shouldn’t need to be legalised at all.

If you need to use the deed poll in the U.K. (excluding any foreign embassies located in the U.K.) then it won’t need to be legalised — there are no government bodies in the U.K. that require you to have documents legalised.

If you need to use the deed poll in any other country, it should be legalised (and certified, if necessary) by the relevant body in the country where it was executed.  For the purposes of the Hague Convention, the deed poll is considered to “originate” from the country where it was executed, despite being a U.K. legal document.

Bear in mind that the purpose of an apostille is to certify the signature of the person who has witnessed or certified the document, not the contents of the deed poll itself.

My deed poll was executed at a foreign embassy in the U.K. — can I have it legalised in the U.K.?

No — your document would be considered to be a foreign document and should be legalised in the country which the embassy represents.

Does an apostille expire?

No — there is no official expiry date on the apostille.  However, the (overseas) authority you’ve got to show your deed poll to may want it to be legalised within a certain timeframe, which is something you can check with them.