Certain instances will require a solicitor to certify a document. These include situations when the document requiring an apostille is a photocopy of the original.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority clearly specifies the boundaries of a solicitor when it comes to a certified document. [1]

For example, a solicitor cannot apostille documents. They are only allowed to perform document certification services.

During legalisation, a document is usually issued with an apostille. This is a stamp from a recognised body certifying that the document is authentic.

Without correct certification, a document can not be legalised.

Most documents will have the required stamp or signature and will not need any more certifications. Documents such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, HMRC letters and court orders.

However, other documents will require to be authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

These include personal papers, affidavits, statutory declarations, company documents, bank account documents, a land registry document, and any other legal document without an authorised signature.

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Which professions can certify documents in the UK?

For documents to be eligible for legalisation with an apostille, they must be appropriately certified under the Hague Apostille Convention and by a recognised public official. [2]

Sometimes it can be challenging to identify who can offer certification for different types of documents as requested by overseas authorities.

Below is a list of the officials who can certify documents for an apostille process to begin:

What is the difference between notarised and certified?

These two terms are likely to cause confusion, especially people who are unfamiliar with the process of legalisation.

Terms like ‘attestation’ and ‘legalisation’ are often used interchangeably.

But can you also use ‘notarised’ and ‘certified’ interchangeably?

No. these two require a clear distinction as using them interchangeably could easily lead to documents being rejected by authorities in the destination country.

What does a certified copy mean?

A certified copy means that the document being certified is a true copy of the original, and the person attesting it has indeed seen the original copy.

Only a registered solicitor is allowed to certify original documents.

When they attach the certification to the photocopy, it means that they saw the original and that the signed copy is a true representation of the original.

Please note that this does not verify the details in the document but is instead a declaration by the solicitor that they have seen the original document.

The solicitor adds their stamp, signature, and date. The idea of getting a certified copy works well for individuals who would wish to only use the copy of an original, rather than carrying the original document around with them.

The FCDO and embassies usually accept certified copies of education documents.

However, the Chinese embassy does not accept more than one-page documents until it has been bound by a notary, as described below.

What is a notarised copy?

A notarised copy is more detailed than a certified copy of the original.

First of all, the notarised copy can only be produced by a notary public after verifying the information contained within the document.

They then include a notarial cover sheet that details their findings and states the authenticity of the contents in the document.

This option is more detailed and secure. The process is often needed in cases where the legitimacy of the contents in a document is of high priority.

Generally, notarisation takes longer compared to the certification of the original. Therefore, it is also more expensive.

Countries such as the UAE no longer accept documents with notarial cover sheets as qualified documents for legalisation.

Additionally, China only accepts more than one-page documents that have been certified and bound using a ribbon by a notary public.

Which should you opt for?

It depends.

When wondering which process to put your documents through, the best thing would be to check with whoever you are presenting the documents to.

Ensure that you are aware of their requirements before choosing one of the options. In most cases, for legalisation, you will require a certified copy.

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Types of solicitor certifications governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority

The legalisation with an apostille needs to have a stamp from a known legal authority or a signature from a solicitor or public official.

Therefore, most documents usually require some kind of certification by a solicitor as an integral part of the legalisation process.

Here’s a look at the different types of certifications by a solicitor:

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How should a document be certified?

For a document to be certified, it must follow specific certification criteria that solicitors must adhere to when certifying documents for apostille purposes.

When a notary public or solicitor puts their signature, they must:

  • Possess a practising certificate that is valid
  • Sign the document in the UK
  • Indicate their action in the process. i.e., witnessing, certifying a copy, confirming as original, etc.
  • Use their signature and not the company’s signature
  • Indicate the certification date
  • Indicate their name as well as the address of their company
  • Must ensure the signature is in the original ink. It is not suitable to use copy or digital signatures.

Which documents can be certified by a solicitor?

All documents can be certified.

The solicitor only needs to go through the document, after which they will indicate their reason for certifying it and then sign on it. A solicitor can certify the following documents:

  • Driving licences
  • Passports
  • Certificates of birth, death, and marriage
  • Letters issued by government departments or hospitals
  • Utility bills
  • The building or bank society statements, etc.
  • And many, many more

The type of document and the reason for its certification will determine which certification will be added to it.

In most cases, a document will simply be certified as an original or a copy. In addition, the solicitor will indicate ‘witnessed by’ or ‘signed in my presence’ for signature witnessing. This confirms that they saw the document.

It is important to ensure that the certification of documents is done correctly.

Why is the certification of documents necessary?

The reason why certified copies are required is to verify that the ID books or original documents are genuine.

This helps avoid fraud as people can easily make up fake documents on a computer that looks real.

The use of certified copies also helps avoid giving up possession of important documents, such as identity documents, and prevents their loss or damage.

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This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts. We only link to high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles.

[1] Solicitors Regulation Authority
https://www.sra.org.uk/

[2] Hague Apostille Convention
https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions/specialised-sections/apostille

[3] Certifying a document
https://www.gov.uk/certifying-a-document

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