An explanation of how electronic signatures are used to obtain an e-apostille, including the specific steps and requirements involved.

Introduction to e-signatures and their role in legalising UK documents

Electronic signatures, pivotal in modernising UK document legalisation, offer a secure and efficient alternative to traditional signing methods.

Legally recognised e-signatures ensure the authenticity and integrity of digitally processed documents.

They streamline the certification process, which is crucial for international document recognition, such as apostilles, enhancing accessibility and compliance with evolving digital standards.

Who can issue e-signatures for document legalisation in the UK?

FCDO-registered solicitors and notaries.

Only solicitors and notaries registered with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) are authorised to issue electronic signatures for legalising documents in the UK. This registration ensures they meet the necessary legal standards.

These professionals must use FCDO-approved software to issue electronic signatures, ensuring security and compliance with legal standards.

Technical requirements for electronic signatures

Accepted types for e-apostille:

  • Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES): These signatures, offering high security and assurance, are essential for e-apostilles in the UK.
  • Or Advance Electronic Signature (AES)

Software and platform compatibility:

  • FCDO-Approved Software: Required for legally compliant electronic signing.
  • Platform Compatibility: Must align with FCDO systems for proper processing of e-apostilles.

What do solicitors and notaries need to issue e-signatures for UK documents?


  • For e-notarisation, they use Advanced Electronic Signatures (AES) or Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES).
  • Verification includes checking the document, identity of the signatory, proof of address, and photo ID.
  • Often, verification may require a videoconferencing call.


  • Solicitors certify original documents and their true copies.
  • The process may not always require proof of address or photo ID.

Both notaries and solicitors must comply with the legal standards for e-signatures and ensure their certifications and notarisations are completed within the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

An image showing a notarys digital signature on a power of attorney document
Image credit: DALL·E + LAS Ltd.

The process of obtaining an e-apostille with electronic signatures

To obtain an e-apostille with electronic signatures in the UK:

  • 1

    Document eligibility: ensure your document is eligible for an e-apostille and is electronically signed by a UK FCDO-registered notary or solicitor.

  • 2
    Online application: apply online and upload the digitally signed document as a pdf.
  • 3

    Document bundles: some documents can be processed together (please enquire for assistance)

  • 4
    Verification and issuance: the legalisation office verifies and issues the e-apostille, attached to the document’s pdf.
  • 5
    Time and cost: the process takes a few hours but can take 2 working days and costs £167 per document.
  • 6

    International acceptance: confirm if the destination country accepts e-apostilles.

  • 7

    Limitations: some documents, like birth, death, marriage certificates and records, are ineligible for e-apostille. (enquire for more details).

Security measures to ensure the integrity of the e-apostille

Ensuring e-apostille integrity.

  • Advanced and qualified electronic signatures: used for their high security, linking the signature uniquely to the signatory for authenticity.
  • Digital verification: the UK legalisation office checks e-signatures against their records to confirm authenticity before issuing the e-apostille.

Document protection measures.

  • Encryption and secure transmission protect data during uploading and transmission.
  • Digital audit trails: record signatory details and timestamps, essential for verifying document history.
  • Tamper-evident technology detects any alterations post-signing, ensuring the e-apostille remains unchanged.

These measures maintain the security and integrity of e-apostilles, making them reliable for international use.

Benefits of using electronic signatures for e-apostille service

Increased efficiency

  • Quick processing: electronic signatures streamline the apostille process, significantly reducing the time from application to issuance.

  • Ease of handling: digital documents eliminate the need for physical handling and mailing, speeding up the entire procedure.

Cost savings

  • Reduced expenses: the electronic process cuts down on postage and courier fees associated with traditional paper apostilles.
  • Efficiency gains: time saved in the process also translates to cost savings, especially for businesses handling multiple documents.


  • Accessibility: e-apostilles can be applied for and received from anywhere without visiting physical offices.(*)

  • Ease of sharing: digitally apostilled documents can be easily shared via email or other electronic means, facilitating smoother international transactions.

Using electronic signatures for e-apostilles offers a blend of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and convenience, making it an advantageous choice for individuals and businesses alike.

(*) For some documents, it is still necessary to receive the original documents before an electronic signature can be issued for an e-apostille.

E-apostille eligibility and limitations

Types of documents eligible for e-apostille for electronic signatures.

  • Documents issued by official bodies: includes those issued by courts, government departments, and public registries.
  • Certified by UK public officials: documents that have been certified by a UK FCDO registered notary or solicitor.
  • Digitally signed documents: those bearing advanced electronic signatures (AES) or qualified electronic signatures (QES).

Limitations and alternatives for non-eligible documents

  • Excluded documents: certain documents, such as birth/death/marriage certificates, police and fingerprint certificates, and some official registry documents, cannot receive an e-apostille.
  • Physical apostille as alternative: for these excluded documents, the traditional paper-based apostille remains the alternative.
  • Verification of acceptance: it’s important to check with the destination country or requesting authority whether an e-apostille is suitable for your specific document type.

Understanding the scope of documents eligible for e-apostilles and the limitations helps make informed decisions about document legalisation and choosing the right type of apostille.

Challenges and drawbacks of using electronic signatures

Security and authentication concerns

  • 1
    Risk of digital forgery: although electronic signatures are generally secure, there’s always a risk of digital forgery or unauthorised use.
  • 2

    Verification challenges: verifying the FCDO’s signature can only be done by using Acrobat Reader for the e-apostille

  • 3
    Technical vulnerabilities: electronic signatures rely on digital platforms, which may be susceptible to hacking, data breaches, or technical failures, potentially compromising document integrity.
  • 4
    Legal recognition variances: the legal acceptance of electronic signatures varies across different jurisdictions, which can pose challenges in international legal contexts.
  • 5
    Dependence on technology: the effectiveness of electronic signatures is heavily reliant on the availability and reliability of technology, both for the signatory and the verifying party.

These challenges necessitate robust security measures, clear legal frameworks, and reliable technological solutions to ensure electronic signatures’ effective and secure use.

Future outlook and potential developments in e-apostille services

Evolving e-signature technologies

  • Advanced security features: future e-signature technologies are likely to incorporate enhanced security features, such as biometric verification and advanced encryption, to mitigate risks of forgery and unauthorised use.
  • Integration with blockchain: the integration of blockchain technology could offer a new level of security and transparency for e-apostilles, with immutable and traceable records.
  • User-friendly interfaces: continued development is expected in making e-signature platforms more user-friendly, ensuring wider accessibility and ease of use for individuals and organisations.

And e-apostille practices to ensure smooth cross-border legal transactions and mutual recognition of electronic legal documents.

  • Legal framework adaptation: as technology evolves, legal frameworks across different countries will need to adapt to accommodate new e-signature methods and ensure they are legally binding and internationally recognised.
  • Expanding acceptance: the trend towards digitalisation in global legal practices suggests a broader acceptance of e-apostilles and electronic signatures in more jurisdictions, enhancing international cooperation and legal process efficiency.

In summary, the future of e-apostille services is closely tied to advancements in electronic signature technology and the evolving legal landscape, both of which are expected to bring greater security, efficiency, and global standardisation to the process.

Cost and pricing comparisons

E-apostille vs. Traditional paper-based apostille.

Additional fees for electronic signatures

  • Qualified electronic signatures (QES) costs: using QES involve costs associated with obtaining the signature from a certified provider, though this can vary.
  • Platform fees: some platforms may charge additional fees for their services, which can vary depending on the provider and the complexity of the service.

Cost savings examples:

Overall, adopting e-signatures and e-apostille services can lead to cost savings and efficiency, especially for frequent users or those needing rapid document processing.

This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts. We only link to high-quality sources like government information & data, original reporting and interviews with industry experts. Reputable publishers are also sourced and cited where appropriate to support the facts within our articles. [editorial policy]

  1. UK legalises public documents electronically
  2. Q&A on how to use electronic signatures and complete virtual executions
  3. What is a Qualified Electronic Signature (QES)?
  4. FAQ on the issuance and verification of an e-Apostille
  5. E-apostilles around the world: A full list of participating countries