An apostille is a physical paper issued by the UK government’s legalisation office, the FCDO (the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office).

It’s about 13.5 cm by 15.5 cm (5.30 inches by 6.10 inches) in size and is partially glued to the back of a document.

The apostille certificate is stamped, signed, and embossed onto the document.

It can be attached to an original UK public document or a certified copy.

The apostille confirms only the authenticity of the signatures, seal, and stamps on a UK document; it does not confirm the authenticity of the underlying document itself.

The UK FCDO-issued apostille certificate also states who and in what capacity the document was signed to receive the apostille (e.g., public official, solicitor, notary) and is issued a unique number that can be verified on the UK government’s website.

An apostille certificate has no expiry date, although the document it is attached to might. As of 2024, it is valid in 126 countries.

Meaning - what is an apostille?

What an apostille is not:

  • No substitute for legalisation: If the country you need your document for is NOT a member of the Apostille Convention, you’ll need a more complex process called “legalisation.” (also called ‘attestation’).
  • Not a universal guarantee: Even with an apostille, your document might not be automatically accepted. Some countries may require translations or additional certifications.

  • Not a content verification: An apostille confirms that your document is officially issued and that the signatures are real, but it doesn’t guarantee that the information inside is accurate or valid.
  • No legal enforcement: An apostille helps verify a document’s authenticity but doesn’t automatically make it legally binding or enforceable in every country.

Information included on a UK apostille certificate:

The UK apostille certificate is a standardised document with specific details about your original document and its authentication.

These fields are labelled in English, French, and Spanish to ensure international recognition:

  • 1
    Country of Issue: Confirms the document originates from the United Kingdom.
  • 2
    Name of Signatory: Identifies the person who signed the original document.
  • 3
    Capacity of Signatory: Specifies the role or title of the person who signed the document (e.g., public official, solicitor, notary).
  • 4
    Seal Details (if applicable): Describes any official seal or stamp on the original document.
  • 5
    Place of Issue: Indicates the city where the apostille was issued.
  • 6
    Date of Issue: The exact date the apostille was issued.
  • 7
    Issuing Authority: Identifies the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) as the official issuer.
  • 8
    Apostille Certificate Number: A unique reference number for verification purposes.
  • 9
    Stamp of Issuing Authority: The official FCDO stamp.
  • 10
    Signature of FCDO Representative: The signature of the authorised FCDO official.

Different terms and meanings for an apostille

While “apostille” is the most common term, you may also hear it referred to as an “apostille certificate,” “apostille stamp,” “Hague apostille,” “FCDO apostille” or simply “legalisation” (in non-member countries).

Please read our detailed guide about the commonly used apostille and legalisation terms.

This is what an apostille looks like:

What an apostille form looks like
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