Information on Notarised and legalised translations

Created: Apr 20, 2020 | Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Most people understand the concept of a translation service, taking a document and faithfully and accurately reproducing it in another language. But not so many are familiar with the terms ‘notarisation’ and ‘legalisation’ in this context and what they mean.  

This guide will explain all you need to know about these two processes and how they correlate with language translations, specifically:-

  • What is a Notary Public?
    • How to find a Notary?
    • How do you know if you need to engage the services of a Notary Public?
    • What is the process of Notarisation?
  • What will you see on the notarised document?
    • Why might you have to have a document notarised?
    • What type of documents may need to be notarised?
  • What is Legalisation?
    • What does Apostille mean?
  • How do official translations fit into this process?
    • How can I obtain a certified translation with subsequent notarisation and legalisation?
  • Sworn translation alternatives

What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is usually a Solicitor or Barrister who has undergone a further qualification to join the Roll of Notaries.  Notaries have their own official society called The Notaries Society.

Notaries usually specialise in one particular area which is the preparation, certification and legalisation of specific documents so they can be used and accepted both in the UK and abroad.  Documents can be personal, corporate or to be used in a professional or broader context.

A Notary Public’s duty of care is to the document they are notarising in terms of its authenticity and validity not to the individual or organisation presenting the document for validation and seal.


How to find a Notary?

In the UK, most Notaries are either Solicitors or Barristers but don’t assume every Solicitor is also a Notary Public. Usually, the nameplate outside a Solicitor’s office or their official letterhead or website will indicate whether they are also a Notary Public and offer notarisation services.  In addition to this, some organisations specialise purely in notarisation services.  Many of them are located in London to make access to the FCO for legalisation a quick procedure if required and offer a fast turnaround time on documents with an express service.  The main FCO centre where legalisation takes place is actually in Milton Keynes.

If your own Solicitor is not a Notary then you can search online or use the directory available on the website for The Notaries Society to find one.  They have a filter for location based on postcode and also for language which might be relevant.


How do you know if you need to engage the services of a Notary Public?

It is usually evident from the paperwork you receive that notarisation is required because the words, ‘notarised’ or ‘legalised’ are used.  But some bodies and organisations, particularly from overseas, may also use more general terms including:-

  • Attestation
  • Verification
  • Certification
  • Affirmation
  • Accreditation
  • Authentication
  • Endorsement

You may need to either notarise or legalise a document or both.


What is the process of Notarisation?

In simple terms, notarisation is the process which confirms that a particular document is authentic and genuine.  Also of importance is the confirmation that the signature on the document has been obtained without any form of coercion or intimidation, whether mental or physical. 

The notarisation process consists of three parts – vetting, certifying and record-keeping and the actual form of the notarial acts will depend on the type of document put forward and the country in which it is to be used.  The Notary certifies:-

  • That the document and the signature are genuine
  • That the person who signed the document had mental capacity at the time of signature and signed of their own free will
  • If the document is on behalf of a company or organisation then the Notary is also verifying that the individual whose signature the document bears, is entitled to represent that organisation
  • Sometimes, the Notary may have to certify that the document has been correctly executed in accordance with English law
  • A Notary Public can also certify the truth and accuracy of translations against original documents even though he may not be fluent in the language.  In this situation, the Notary is verifying the authenticity of the person who has undertaken the translation rather than the content and meaning of the actual text


What will you see on the notarised document?

The document will bear the Notary’s signature and the official seal of office.  The seal is an inked and embossed stamp, most commonly in red or blue.


Why might you need to have a document notarised?

Notarisation is most commonly used for a document which needs acceptance in a foreign country as part of a due process for personal or corporate purposes.

What types of documents may need to be notarised?
  • Affidavits and Oaths
  • Statutory Declarations
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Written statements
  • Mortgage documents
  • Property purchases
  • Copy passports
  • Copy driving licences
  • Academic certificates
  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Company documents including Certificates of Incorporation
  • Bills of Sale


What is Legalisation?

Legalisation is an additional process which can follow notarisation.  Notarised documents may have to be legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK and sometimes also by the Embassy of the country for which the documents are intended, an extra step.  Legalisation always has to follow notarisation rather than the other way around.


What does Apostille mean?

The legalisation process produces the Apostille which is affixed to the document.  The Apostille is a means to legally recognise a document issued in one country, in another country; it is a form of international certification for documents which are intended for use abroad.

The Apostille is actually a stamp on the document from the government of the issuing country.  In the UK, it is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who issue the Apostille.  It is sometimes also called the Apostille of the Hague or the Hague Convention.  Many countries form part of what is called the Apostille Convention and this includes all the European countries and the US, notable exceptions are North Korea and China.  The standard rule is that if the document is intended for use in a country that is a signatory to The Hague Convention of 1961, then it will require an Apostille.


Notarised & Legalised Translations

How do official translations fit into this process?

Most countries will require an official translation when you present a document issued in a foreign language.  For instance, that application for a job in Spain with your supporting academic certificates will require a certified translation attached to the application form which will need to be notarised so the documents which are written in English, are also translated into Spanish.  It may also need to be legalised.  

Certified translations are common in certain situations:-

  • Immigration matters
  • Legal issues
  • Professional scenarios surrounding employment or for commercial organisations
  • Academic applications
  • Financial processes


How can I obtain a certified translation with subsequent notarisation and legalisation?

  • You begin with an official or certified translation which is the original text accompanied by a certificate or sworn statement issued by the translator or the agency to confirm the translation is accurate and genuine
  • Next, the official or certified translation is given to a Notary Public who will sign and stamp the translation. It is important to understand that they are not confirming the veracity of the text but the identity of the translator or agency and the validity of their certification.  Notaries are not also translators or linguists.  Notarised translations are usually required to fulfil the requirements of an institution in the receiving country
  • The documents may then need to be legalised by the UK Government to ensure they are acceptable and admissible in a foreign country that is a party to the Hague Convention.  This is usually for documents which are heading outside the UK or to be used at Embassies.  This process produces the Apostille which is attached to the translation.  The translation will then be called a ‘legalised translation’ or an ‘Apostille Translation’
  • For countries who are not part of the Hague Convention such as China, there will be additional steps required. Notarisation and the Apostille  are still necessary and the documents then have to go the Embassy of the destination country for a further process of legalisation which will be clearly specified by the Embassy in terms of process and form.

Many translation companies who specialise in legal, immigration, residency, passport, visa or employment-related work will offer a full service of certified translation followed by notarisation and legalisation because many of their clients require it.  It is easier and usually quicker than obtaining a translation and then independently sourcing a Notary Public followed by the third step, legalisation of the document at the FCO.

We can help !

Translayte can take care of all your needs from the point of instruction through the process of a certified translation with notarisation following and legalisation if required.  The whole process is seamless and stress-free and usually cheaper and quicker than if you undertook each stage individually.  Keeping your documents in one location is also more secure. If you are interested in ordering a notarised or legalised translation, you can do so directly and quickly on our website.


Sworn Translation Alternative

Note: You do not always need legalised translations

The process explained above applies specifically to UK Certified Translations, where you are having the translation done in the UK, then obtaining notarisation or legalisation within the UK for use at a UK based embassy or in another country that has specifically requested "legalised or notarised translation from the UK".

You should always confirm the requirements with the requesting body before placing an order with any agency.

In certain scenarios, you may be able to use a sworn translator registered in the target country. For example, official translations to be used in Spain, France, Italy or Germany can be completed by sworn translator registered in those countries. These translations will hold the same legal weight as legalised translation completed elsewhere.

Check below links for additional information: