In the age of globalisation more and more of us are making the decision to live and work abroad with the United Arab Emirates, Australia and United States being some of the top destinations for British emigrants. Whilst it goes without saying that such a substantial move requires much preparation, there are also many behind-the-scenes practical actions that need to be taken in order to obtain a visa.
A notary public can often help with the certification and legalisation of documents required to apply for a visa. In many cases of relocation there is a need for the notarisation (i.e. certification by a notary public) of educational qualifications, and in particular, degree or master’s certificates.
1) The verification process. In order to notarise a copy (or in some cases, the original) of your degree certificate, the notary public will usually need to verify its authenticity. This process involves contacting the university’s transcripts or records department to confirm that they indeed issued the document in the first place.
The waiting period for the document to be verified varies greatly from institution to institution, as do their requirements. Some institutions that have signed up to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck allow certificates to be checked in minutes, whereas other institutions may take a few weeks to confirm the authenticity. Some universities charge small verification fees to issue this confirmation. Secondary schools, colleges and universities will normally ask that you give permission for this information to be released to third parties, in accordance with the Data Protection Act. You would therefore need to fill in and sign a consent letter to allow the notary public to contact the institution(s) on your behalf.
2) Certifying the document. Once the notary public has verified the authenticity of your certificate, he or she will be able to notarise a copy of it. The notary will draft a notarial certificate confirming that the document is a true copy of your original certificate. If appropriate, the notary will also state that he has verified the authenticity of the original degree certificate and that the institution who issued it is an accredited institution. After affixing his/her seal and signature to the document, the notary public will securely bind the notarial certificate with the copy of the degree certificate.
If the original certificate is notarised, then the notarial certificate will need to be attached to the original rather than a copy, and the wording of the notarial certificate will be slightly different. It is best to check with the receiving party whether a notarised copy is sufficient; otherwise you might need to order a new certificate from your university to keep for your records. Note that some universities charge fees to issue replacement certificates.
3) Legalisation. Whilst the notary public can assist you with certifying the authenticity of your degree certificate, often this will not be sufficient for use abroad, or for visa purposes. Much will depend on the requirements of the destination country or the receiving party – in countries that are parties to the Hague Convention of 1961, your documents will often need to be legalised by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to obtain an ‘apostille’. For countries that are not parties to the Convention, the documents may also need the additional step of legalisation at the relevant Consulate or Embassy in London.
While the fees of the Foreign Office are the same regardless of the destination country of the document, the consulate or embassy fees vary considerably depending on the country. For example, while the UAE embassy currently charges a fee of £30 to legalise one degree certificate, the Brazilian embassy fee is currently £16 per document.
It is important to bear in mind that the Foreign Office will not legalise, and your notary might not be able to certify, academic certificates issued by institutions that are not recognised. For documents issued by UK academic institutions, you can check the UK government’s list of recognised bodies here. For academic certificates issued outside the UK, the notary public might need to make further enquiries to be able to confirm that the document is authentic and that the institution is recognised. Otherwise, it may only be possible for the notary public to certify a true copy of the document, stating that the authenticity of the original document has not been verified.
4) Translation. Depending on where the documents are going to be used, you might need to have them translated into the official language of the relevant country. It might be a good idea to enquire about the need for translation at the beginning of the process, as sometimes it is more convenient to arrange the translation as the first step of the process. Bear in mind that simple translations are often not sufficient and, depending on the destination country, you might require sworn translations or translations that have been certified by a notary public. Speak to your notary if you have been requested certified or notarised translations.
You will find more information about the documents we can notarise for you in the notarisation section of our website and also information about the legalisation procedure in the legalisation section of our website. If you require translations, you can find more information about this here. To ask us any questions or find out about our services and fees, contact us by phone, e-mail or via this contact form.