An explanation of the apostille which is provided by the Foreign and Commonwelath Office (FCO) and legalisation
Legalisation is the process by which the signature and seal of the Notary Public are authenticated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and/or the embassy or consulate of the country in which the document is to be used.
The apostille can only be issued by the FCO but this can also be referred to as legalisation. When a document is stamped by an embassy or consulate it is only called legalisation.
As a notary public when I sign and stamp a document, the person receiving that document in a foreign country needs confidence that I am a genuine notary. This is where the apostille or legalisation comes in. My signature and seal have both been registered at the FCO, embassies and consulates in the UK. When my notarial document is sent to these places my signature and seal will be checked against the records held. They can then issue the apostille or legalisation stamp which is normally affixed to the back of the document.
An apostille is issued in accordance with the Hague Convention 1961. As such it is sometimes referred to as a Hague stamp.
Documents going to countries which are, or have been, part of the British Commonwealth seldom need legalisation nor, at present, do documents going to many parts of the United States.
The cost of the apostille is £30 if issued by the FCO in Milton Keynes. This is a postal service and the turnaround time is normally 4 days. The FCO also charge a return postal fee. This is £6 for addresses in the UK, £14.50 for addresses in Europe and £25 for worldwide.
The FCO also offer a same day Premium Service in London. The fee for this is £75.
Some countries want the apostille from the FCO and a further certificate from their own embassy. This will take longer. There are other procedures that apply only to a few countries, and there can be problems if a document is to be used in a country with which the United Kingdom does not have diplomatic relations.