Books on Northern Irish Law
Authorization stamp
Document of Law

Legalisation and the Apostille


Legalisation is an internationally recognised, albeit tedious, procedure for certifying the authenticity of the execution (by signature and/or seal) of a document. It operates by means of an unbroken chain of verifying signatures commencing with that of the first signatory to the document and ending with the signature of the diplomatic or consular representative of the state in which the document is to be produced and acted upon. The sequence of events for legalisation is as follows:-

The document is executed (i.e. signed and/or sealed) in the presence of a Notary Public who attests to such execution.

The Notary Public takes the document to the Principal Secretary of the Lord Chief Justice who, upon payment of the appropriate fee, will certify that the Notary is still on the Roll of Notaries Public in Northern Ireland and will stamp the document.

The document is sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for sealing by the Principal Secretary (upon payment of the appropriate fee).

The document is sent to the appropriate embassy or consular office for sealing by the relevant official (upon payment of the appropriate fee).

When all the above steps have been completed the document can be said to be legalised and can be sent to its intended destination.

The Apostille

The 1961 Hague Convention agreed a shortened form of legalisation for documents passing between countries that are parties to the Convention. Not all countries in the world are signatories to the Hague Convention and the Republic of Ireland only ratified it in 1999. For those countries outside the Convention the old system still applies. The following web address has details of those countries that have signed up to the Hague Convention:-

An Apostille in the United Kingdom is a certificate issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which verifies the signature and/or seal of a public officer, e.g. a Notary Public, on a document and the capacity in which he or she has acted and has the same effect as legalisation.

The fee payable for an Apostille is currently £30.00 per document.