We encounter all types of questions regarding document legalisation and in this post, we aim to highlight the difference between notarised and apostilled in the UK.

From the outset, a client may be told to get a notary and apostille, or apostille notary.  If a client has no experience with these terms, we may get asked: “is an apostille the same as notarisation?.  

Notarised and apostilled are two separate things. Notarisation is authentication by a notary public and an apostille is authentication of the notarised document by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

Clients may also wonder if an apostille is the same as legalisation. The answer is yes, partly as legalisation is an umbrella term covering both an apostille and authentication from a Consulate/High Commission.

What Is Notarisation?

Notarisation refers to a notary authenticating your document. A notary public can authenticate your document in various ways. For example, it may involve witnessing your signature, confirming your identity and capacity, or certifying a copy of your document.

A notary is a lawyer specialising in authentication. When sending documents abroad, it is common practice to get a notary to authenticate it.  The notary will carry out various checks on the document or any persons signing, and will issue a notarial certificate.

Notarisation is relied upon across the world, and notaries have an important function in guarding against fraud. Once a document has been notarised, it gives confidence to whoever may be receiving the document that everything has been checked correctly. It serves as an integral tool for individuals and companies to carry out their business with peace of mind.

What Is Document Legalisation?

Document legalisation refers to the process of making key documents valid for use in a foreign country by getting them certified by a government.  Legalisation can be carried out either by the UK government, or the local government of where the document is going to be used.

Different countries have their own requirements as to what is needed for a document to be valid. Certain countries, including many of those in the Commonwealth, accept notarisation only. However, for most countries, document legalisation will be required.  

A majority of countries require both notarisation and an apostille.  

A smaller number of countries require notarisation, an apostille and legalisation/attestation from their Consulate or High Commission.

What Is An Apostille?

An apostille is a specific type of certification carried out by the government.  In the UK, apostilles are issued only by the Legalisation Office of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, commonly referred to as the FCDO for short.

The apostille confirms the signature and seal of the notary public, or public official who certified the document. This gives the document an extra level of authentication and confidence in its validity to whomever will be receiving the document.

The apostille itself is a piece of paper affixed to the document, stating the name of the notary public on the notarised document and the public official or government department who issued the document.  Each apostille is given a unique reference number.

You can find out more by visiting our article on What is an Apostille?

Key Differences Between An Apostille And Notarisation

Whilst both notary and apostille services carry out authentication, there are some key differences between the two. Here are the key differences between both processes:

  1. No previous certification of a document is required before a notary can notarise it. Whereas before it can be apostilled, a document must first be certified by a notary or solicitor, or issued by a UK government official.
  2. In the UK, an apostille can only be issued by the Legalisation Office of the FCDO, while notarisation can only be performed by a notary public.
  3. Notarisation can be requested for documents to be used in the UK. However, an apostille is only required for documents going abroad to certain countries.
  4.  A notary will keep a record of the notarised document on their notarial register and can share a scan on request. An apostille can be verified through the Verify an Apostille service on the UK government website.


Notarisation and apostille are distinct processes that may be needed when sending documents abroad.

We can assist with both notarisation and apostille authentication. Our team of notaries have years of combined experience and will handle your matter costeffectively with expertise.  Our clerks and legalisation agents will efficiently take care of any apostille request. We deal with any requests entirely in-house, ensuring that your documents are submitted and collected in person, and handled with the utmost discretion.

Contact us today at 02076301777 or email info@notary.co.uk to start the conversation.