Receiving news that your document has been rejected by the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) can be both frustrating and disheartening. We understand the inconvenience this may cause, especially when time-sensitive matters are at hand.

We recognise the complexities inherent in the apostille legalisation process, especially regarding signature verifications with the FCDO.

This guide aims to explain the FCDO’s signature verification process and offers actionable steps to take.

As your dedicated legalisation partner, our commitment is to provide clarity and assistance, ensuring a smooth progression through each step of the process.

If all this is new to you – the terms used in this guide are explained at the end of this article.

Getting an apostille – overview:

  1. Documents are submitted to the FCDO
  2. FCDO compares the signature on the document against their database
  3. If the signature isn’t in their records, The FCDO can’t issue an apostille

Explainer:

An apostille certificate is issued against a public official’s signature (Registrar, Minister, Solicitor, Notary, Judge, etc). The FCDO does not verify the document’s content, only the public officials’ signatures. If the signature has not been registered on their database, the FCDO can’t issue the apostille.

Can’t signatures be checked before submission?

There is no way to check if the signature is registered for some documents. We only find out after submitting the document.

Some signatures can be verified before submission, for example, when a solicitor, notary, or doctor has recently signed a document. We ask the signer to confirm that they are FCDO registered. If not, they can follow the registration process outlined in this guide.

If your document has been rejected:

General Steps:

  • When documents get rejected because of a signature query, you will be notified about possible steps to take.

  • If we can’t get an apostille for your document, the apostille fee will be refunded – or we will resubmit.

The next steps could be:

  • Get the signature registered with the FCDO.
  • Get a replacement / new document.
  • Have a solicitor or notary certify your document (*)

(*) This is not always recommended or accepted. Please check with the requesting authority first.

Although registering and verifying a signature with the FCDO is the same process for everyone, we’ve listed the most common examples below.

Registering a signature with the FCDO as a public official

Any public official signing documents that need to be legalised for use overseas must register and verify their signature so that the FCDO can issue an apostille for those documents.

The registration process is simply sending an email to the FCDO. The FCDO will then check with the relevant authorising body and add the signature to their system.

Signers should respond to any requests from the FCDO official quickly, as getting an apostille is often time sensitive.

If you are a public official or a person that needs to ask a public official to register their signature – here is an email template that can be used –  including email addresses for the registration request.

Subject: Signature Registration – [Date of Application]/[Company Application Made Through]/[Your Name]

Dear FCDO Signature Registration Team,

I am writing to register my signature in the FCDO’s database for document verification purposes. Attached is a scanned copy of a document bearing my original wet ink signature on my official headed paper. [include official seal if applicable]

Details:
Registered Name: [Your Full Name]
Capacity: [Your Position/Profession]
Company application made through: [Company you work for]

I hereby grant permission to store my signature in the FCDO’s database. Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

To: email and/or email

Subject: Signature Registration – [Date of Application]/[Company Application Made Through]/[Your Name]

Dear FCDO Signature Registration Team,

I am writing to register my signature in the FCDO’s database for document verification purposes. Attached is a scanned copy of a document bearing my original wet ink signature on my official headed paper. [include official seal if applicable]

Details:
Registered Name: [Your Full Name]
Capacity: [Your Position/Profession]
Company application made through: [Company you work for]

I hereby grant permission to store my signature in the FCDO’s database. Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

Email this template to someone

Once the signature has been registered and verified – the confirmation email from the FCDO should be forwarded to the person or apostille agency that resubmits the document for an apostille to avoid further delays.

Steps to take to register a signature for a GRO document with the FCDO

(Birth, Death, Marriage, Civil Partnerships, Gender Recognition, CNI, Adoption Certificates, etc):

If the public official’s signature on your document is not registered, you need to contact the authority that issued the document, like your local council.

Inform them that the FCDO could not issue an apostille for their signature as it is not in the FCDO database.

The registration process is simply sending an email to the FCDO. The FCDO will then check with the relevant authorising body and add the signature to their system.

The process is free and usually takes 2-3 working days to complete, depending on how quickly all parties respond to information requests.

If they are unfamiliar with the process, here is an email template they can use to send to the FCDO to register and verify their signature:

Subject: Signature Verification – [Date of Application]/[Company Application Made Through]/[Your Name]

Dear FCDO Signature Verification Team,

I am writing to register my signature in the FCDO’s database for document verification purposes. Attached is a scanned copy of a document bearing my original wet ink signature on my official headed paper.

Details:
Registered Name: [Your Full Name]
Company: [Company you are working for]
Capacity: [Your Position/Profession]

I hereby grant permission to store my signature in the FCDO’s database. Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

To: email and/or email

Subject: Signature Verification – [Date of Application]/[Company Application Made Through]/[Your Name]

Dear FCDO Signature Verification Team,

I am writing to register my signature in the FCDO’s database for document verification purposes. Attached is a scanned copy of a document bearing my original wet ink signature on my official headed paper.

Details:
Registered Name: [Your Full Name]
Company: [Company you are working for]
Capacity: [Your Position/Profession]

I hereby grant permission to store my signature in the FCDO’s database. Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

Please note that ordering an official replacement copy from the GRO or your local council for birth, death, marriage, or similar documents does not come with a new signature. The replacement copy will contain the original signatures present at the time of registration!

You do have a second option, which is to have a solicitor or notary certify your document.

Please note that if a solicitor or notary certifies your document, the apostille will be issued for the solicitor’s or notary’s signature – not the original public official’s signature.

Some authorities accept this method of getting an apostille – but not all. You must first confirm that this would be an acceptable process for the requesting authority.

Steps to take to register a doctor’s signature

(NHS, Doctors, Coroners, Dentists, Optometrists, Psychologists, etc.)

Like above, if a doctor’s signature isn’t stored on the FCDO’s database, ask the doctor to contact the FCDO directly via email.

The registration process is simply sending an email to the FCDO.

The process is free and usually takes 2-3 working days to complete, depending on how quickly all parties respond to information requests.

Below is a template that you can send to the doctor that they can use:

Subject: Signature Registration – [Date of Application]/[Company Application Made Through]/[Your Name]

Dear FCDO Signature Registration Team,

I am writing to have my signature registered in the FCDO’s database for document verification purposes. Attached is a scanned copy of a document bearing my original wet ink signature on my official headed paper.

Details:
Registered Name: [Your Full Name]
Capacity: [Your Position/Profession]
Registration/Membership Number: [Your Registration Number, e.g., GMC for doctors]

I hereby grant permission to store my signature in the FCDO’s database. Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

To: email and/or email

Subject: Signature Registration – [Date of Application]/[Company Application Made Through]/[Your Name]

Dear FCDO Signature Registration Team,

I am writing to have my signature registered in the FCDO’s database for document verification purposes. Attached is a scanned copy of a document bearing my original wet ink signature on my official headed paper.

Details:
Registered Name: [Your Full Name]
Capacity: [Your Position/Profession]
Registration/Membership Number: [Your Registration Number, e.g., GMC for doctors]

I hereby grant permission to store my signature in the FCDO’s database. Please let me know if you require any additional information.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

If the doctor can’t or won’t register their signature (not all GPs agree to being added to the database or are slow to provide the requested registration information), you would need to get a new medical certificate or letter from a doctor registered with the FCDO.

One company you could use is https://www.zoomdoc.com

Please note that we are not affiliated with Zoomdoc, but many customers have used their services without issues. You should still check that the doctor is registered with the FCDO when using their services.

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The other option is that a notary certifies your medical document.

When a notary certifies your document, the apostille will be granted for their signature, not the original doctor’s signature.

While some authorities accept this, ensuring it’s an accepted process for the specific authority you’re dealing with is essential.

We understand that not everyone has heard of or is familiar with the apostille process. Here are short explanations of the terms used in this guide.

Terms explained:

  • FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office): A department of the UK government responsible for safeguarding the UK’s national security, promoting the UK’s prosperity, and providing consular services. It also plays a crucial role in legalising documents for international use by issuing the Apostille certificate.
  • Apostille: An official government-issued certificate added to documents to ensure they are recognised when presented in another country. This verifies the legal official who has signed a document and their capacity to do so.
  • GRO (General Register Office): The UK office responsible for registering vital events, including births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships, and adoptions in England and Wales. They provide official certificates for these events, and replacement certificates.
  • HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs): The UK government department is responsible for collecting taxes, payment of certain forms of state support, and administrating other regulatory regimes.
  • Signature Verification: The process of checking the authenticity of a signature by comparing it to a database of verified signatures. In the context of this article, the FCDO performs this verification when legalising documents for overseas use.
  • Requesting Authority: Requesting authority refers to any overseas entity, be it governmental or non-governmental, like immigration offices, visa departments, universities, medical boards, or employers, that requires you to present specific verified or legalised documents for purposes such as travel, study, employment, or residency.
  • Public Officials

In the UK, a “Public Official” refers to individuals who are responsible within the government or a publicly funded organisation. Their roles are typically defined by law and given specific powers or responsibilities to act for the public interest.

Examples of public officials in the UK include:

  • Registrars: Individuals responsible for registering life events such as births, marriages, and deaths.
  • Judges and Magistrates: Persons authorised to oversee and adjudicate in courts of law.
  • Notaries Public: Legal professionals authenticate documents, witness signatures, and administer oaths.
  • Members of Parliament (MPs): Elected representatives participating in the UK legislative process.
  • Local Councillors: Elected members of local councils who make decisions on local issues and services.
  • Police Officers: Individuals given the power to uphold and enforce the law.
  • Civil Servants: Employees of the civil service who work for government departments or agencies.

The term can encompass a broad range of roles, each with its own specific powers, responsibilities, and regulatory frameworks. The unifying factor among all public officials is that they serve the public interest and are held to specific standards of conduct and accountability.