What is document legalisation?

Legalisation makes documents suitable for use in another country. The process often involves several different steps. Documents that can be legalised include civil status documents, court orders and diplomas or certificates.

Legalisation shows that:

  • the document was issued by an official authority
  • the signature, seal and/or stamp on the document are genuine
  • the document's format is correct.

Legalisation does not confirm that a document’s content is correct. It is down to the authority asking for the document to check this.

What steps are involved?

The steps you must take to have a document legalised vary by country. It depends on the agreements made between the country where you want to use the document and the country that issued it.

Sometimes you must also have your document translated by a sworn translator. Ask the authorities in question if this is necessary and, if so, where you can have this done.

Legalisation with an apostille

In many countries, you can have your document legalised with an apostille. This is a simplified form of legalisation. An authority in country A legalises the document with a type of stamp or sticker, known as an ‘apostille’. After this, no more steps are necessary. You can use the document in all the countries that are party to the Apostille Convention.

Legalisation without an apostille

If one or both of the countries involved in your legalisation is not a party to the Apostille Convention, then legalisation often involves two steps:

Sometimes legalisation is not necessary

Legalisation is not necessary if Country A has an agreement with Country B exempting your type of document. If so, you can use your document in Country B without having it legalised. Several countries also have reciprocal agreements. Under the EU Regulation on Public Documents, for instance, public documents issued in one EU member state do not need to be legalised for use in another.

Sometimes legalisation is not possible

Sometimes, legalisation is not possible in a given country. For instance, because of war or conflict in Country A. Or because there are no authorities that can check the document. If so, the authorities in Country B will check and assess the document.