When applying for legalisation, you may be asked to provide a certified copy of your documents. The certification confirms the validity of a document and is used as a tool against fraud.

As such, you must seek the services of a qualified UK solicitor, notary public, or the relevant authorities to get your documents certified.

The certification assures requesting authorities that your documents(s) are a true copy of the original.

This guide examines what a certified copy is – when a certified copy is required, who can certify a document and what format the certification should take, and the use of certified copies for the purpose of legalisation.

What is a certified copy of documents?

A certified document copy is a photocopy that has been authenticated by being signed and stamped by an authorised public official, like a solicitor or notary public.

Once a document has been certified, it can be ‘legalised’. This is the process of making a document legally acceptable in countries that are part of the Hague apostille convention.

The certification of a document doesn’t verify that the document is genuine.

When is a certified copy required?

Certified document copies are required for UK ID documents such as passports and driver’s licenses. In addition, certified copies are required for documents that can legally not be altered.

You may want a certified copy to preserve the original document, or if you can’t get a replacement document like a P60 form.

Most digitally issued documents require certification before they can be used for legalisation.

You’ll also need a certified copy of your documents if a copy has been requested from the overseas authority.

And specific business documents like – company board resolutions must be certified.

What format should a certified copy take?

The format and wording are usually the standard government-suggested wording, or the following statement on the face of the document is generally acceptable:

‘I [insert full name of the authorised person] CERTIFY that this document is a true and complete copy of the original’

OR (in the case of a photographic ID)

‘I [insert full name of the authorised person] CERTIFY that this document is a true and complete copy of the original and a true likeness of the individual [insert name]’

The authorised person must sign the document and print their name, company, position, contact information and date the document was certified.

Sometimes, the requesting authority might ask for a different format – to make it acceptable in their country.

Correctly certified copy of documents example

What are the different types of document certifications?

  • Certifying the originality of a document
  • Certifying a photocopy or the original document
  • Certifying a digital (downloaded) document
  • Witnessing a signature

Conditions for document certification

Copies of documents can only be certified under the following conditions:

  • The document copy must be a true copy of the original
  • The signing authority must see the original document
  • The signing authority can not have a prior relationship with the document owner
  • Copies must contain the phrase “Certified to be a true copy of the original seen by me”

How certifying a copy of documents works

Documents are certified by including a written statement to that effect, which is then signed, stamped, and dated by a UK solicitor or relevant authority.

The certifier must include the following in the certified copy:

  • Their name is in block capitals
  • Their occupation
  • Their contact details and company address
  • Date of certification
  • Written or stamped company name

If your document has multiple pages, the certifying authority can write a certification on the first page and specify all the pages it relates to.

Additionally, they must securely attach all the related pages together to ensure that they are not tampered with.

Alternatively, the certifier can sign and stamp each page of the certified copy [2].

While certification does not confirm the document’s contents, it is a mandatory step for legalising some documents.

Electronic copies and certification via video

The UK government does not give specific guidance as to whether it is possible to verify a document by means of a live video call.

As a matter of best practice, it is advised to enquire with the organisation requesting the document if verifying via video is appropriate – when required to submit a certified copy of the document [3].

Who can certify documents for legalisation in the UK?

A typical list of acceptable third parties who can certify documents for legalisation in the UK includes notaries, solicitors, commissioners for oaths, and various professionals such as FCA professionals, accountants, chartered surveyors and magistrates [4].

If you are planning on using your documents outside the UK, certification by a notary public is the most ideal.

A notary certifies a document by attaching a notarial certificate with the certification or by including a signed declaration on the document photocopy.

All notarial certifications have a unique seal.

Other UK officials who can provide a certified copy of documents include:

  • Judges
  • Licensed Doctors or Nurses
  • Government Registrar
  • Bank or Financial institutions
  • HMRC Officers
  • Minister of a recognised religion
  • Companies House Officer
  • Armed forces officer
  • Commissioner of Oaths
  • Social worker
  • Qualified Paralegal
  • An associate Member of a Professional body
  • Accountants
  • Oaths Councillor

*This list is not exhaustive

The individual certifying your documents must not be related to you, living with you or in a relationship with you.

Note: The organisation that needs the certified copy may have specific rules for who is permitted to certify documents, so check with them first.

How much does certification cost in the UK?

There is no specific cost for document certification in the UK.

The amount charged varies depending on the document certification required and the professional providing the services.

It is recommended that you check the cost in advance.

You can always compare the fees before settling on a specific document certifier.

Which documents require a certified copy for an apostille?

Documents that need a certified copy are those that can not be replaced or legally altered – require a certified copy. For example:

  • Driving Licence, Passport, ID, Insurance No
  • BS Check that it is not signed
  • Disclosure Scotland that is not signed
  • Company board resolutions
  • and more..

You can use our search feature to check if your documents need certification for an apostille in the UK.

Is a certified copy as good as the original for an apostille?

Yes, certified copies are as good as the original when it comes to getting an apostille.

However, there are some cases where you might need to submit the original document, especially if the requesting authority needs the original document legalised and not a copy.

As such, it is always important to confirm the requirements of the issuing authority.

What does certification for the purpose of legalisation mean?

Certifying a document for legalisation means that a photocopy of the original document is authenticated as a true copy of the original so that the UK government authority, the FCDO, can legalise the document for use overseas.

Use of certified copies internationally

If a certified photocopy of an original document is used internationally, it must comply with the destination country’s rules and laws. The Hague Convention (Hague Apostille Convention) abolished some of the stricter rules, making accepting certified and apostilled documents more straightforward and more acceptable between member countries [5, 6].

Certifying a translation

To certify a translation, the translator or the certifying authority must stamp and initial each of its pages to prevent misuse or tampering.

In the UK, Qualified ITI members or Qualified Members employed by Corporate ITI members (Language Service providers) can endorse a translation by affixing ITI certification seals, which render the translation “official” [7].

In this case, you must obtain clear instructions about certification and the use of seals from the requesting organisation.

A notarial certification is recommended if you plan to use the translation overseas.

A translation can be notarised by either including a declaration from the translator, which is signed by a notary, or by attaching a notarial certificate confirming that the translated document is a true representation of the original.

Notarised translations are considered “official” for legalisation.

However, the notary’s signature does not confirm the translation’s quality unless they are a Qualified ITI member in the language of translation.

Conclusion

Certification of documents is a vital process for legalisation and obtaining an apostille and can be completed by several trusted professionals.

However, it is always recommended that you confirm the requirements of the requesting organisation to see who they will accept the certification from.

Notarial certification is the highest level of certification and is ideal for documents to be used outside the UK.

Notaries specialise in certifications and will ensure that your documents are correctly certified.

You can always contact us for advice on getting your documents certified and ready for legalisation.

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