The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is a government department responsible for promoting the UK’s interests overseas.

This includes fostering international relations, supporting development initiatives, and providing services to British citizens abroad.

One crucial service offered by the FCDO is the issuance of apostilles.

FCDO Building London
FCDO Building London

Main FCDO building, King Charles St, London SW1


The sole authority for apostilles in the UK

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) holds the exclusive authority to issue apostilles within the United Kingdom.

This means that only apostilles issued by the FCDO guarantee the authenticity and legal acceptance of your UK documents abroad.

The FCDO was formed in 2020 through a merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development.

This merger aimed to streamline government operations and improve efficiency in the UK’s foreign affairs.

Apostille issuance update: London office closure!

It’s important to note that the FCDO’s premium same-day apostille service, previously offered in their London office, is no longer available.

You must apply through the main FCDO legalisation office in Milton Keynes to obtain an apostille for your UK documents.

How to apply:

Visit the official FCDO website for detailed instructions on the application process, including required forms, fees, and processing times.

Importance of FCDO-issued apostilles

When using UK documents in a foreign country, an apostille issued by the FCDO is crucial for ensuring their authenticity and acceptance. Here’s why:

  • Official verification: The FCDO acts as the designated authority in the UK to verify the signatures, seals, and stamps on public documents. Their apostille is an official confirmation that your document is genuine and has been issued by the appropriate UK authorities.
  • Trust and recognition: Countries of the Hague Apostille Convention have agreed to recognise apostilles issued by other member states. This means an FCDO-issued apostille streamlines the process of accepting your UK documents abroad.

  • Preventing fraud: Apostilles help prevent fraud and document misuse, ensuring that only legitimate documents are used for international transactions.

In short, an FCDO-issued apostille provides peace of mind, knowing that your UK documents will be trusted and accepted for their intended use abroad.

Types of apostilles issued by the FCDO

The FCDO offers two primary types of apostilles to accommodate different needs and international requirements:

  • Traditional paper apostille: This is a physical certificate attached to your original document. To confirm its authenticity, it contains official seals, signatures, and other security features. This is the most widely accepted form of apostille globally.

  • E-apostille: The e-apostille is a digital version of the certificate. It’s issued as a PDF document with a unique code and electronic signatures. Not every country accepts the e-Apostille, so you’ll need to verify the requirements of the country where you will be using your documents.

Choosing the right type: It’s essential to check with the foreign authorities where you intend to use your documents to determine whether they require or accept a traditional paper apostille or the e-apostille.

Security features of apostilles

FCDO-issued apostilles incorporate various security features to ensure authenticity and prevent fraud. These features can include:

  • Special paper: Apostilles are often printed on paper, embossed and with other security features.

  • Unique reference number: Each apostille has a unique reference number that can be verified online through the FCDO’s website.

  • Official seals and signatures: Apostilles bear the official seals and signatures of authorised FCDO representatives.

  • e-Apostille verification: Electronic apostilles include digital signatures and security elements for online verification.

Processing times and fees

The FCDO offers standard and expedited services for apostille issuance:

  • Standard service: Processing times can vary depending on the workload. Check the FCDO website for the latest estimates.
  • Expedited service: If you need your documents legalised urgently, expedited options may be available for an additional fee.
  • Fees: The FCDO website provides a clear breakdown of fees associated with both standard and expedited apostille services.

Common types of documents requiring an apostille

Some of the UK documents that most frequently require an apostille include:

  • Personal documents: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, academic certificates, police clearance certificates.
  • Business documents: Company registration documents, powers of attorney, commercial contracts, invoices.
  • Court documents: Court orders, judgments, affidavits.

More details can be found by reading our article on what documents the FCDO can legalise.

International acceptance of FCDO apostilles

The FCDO is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention, a treaty that ensures the widespread recognition of apostilles issued by member states.

Many countries worldwide accept FCDO-issued apostilles, simplifying the use of UK documents abroad.

Important note: Always verify the specific requirements with the foreign authority or institution where you plan to use your documents.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (United Kingdom)

Image: © Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (United Kingdom)

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.

  1. FCO Legalisation Service – Milton Keynes Council
  2. Get your document legalised – GOV.UK
  3. Verify an Apostille
  4. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  5. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office,_Commonwealth_and_Development_Office
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