Question about document legalisation in the UK
January 23, 2013 10:57 PM   Subscribe

You are a UK solicitor, but you are not MY UK solicitor

I have a quick question regarding legalisation and apostilles.

I have a letter from the UK National Archives, that confirms that my great-great-grandfather never became a UK citizen. I need to have it legalised.

According to the UK Legalisation Office, the only way that they can legalise it would be to have a solicitor or a notary public sign it, certify it, and date it.

My question is: what exactly would the solicitor or the notary public be certifying? In the US, a notary witnesses a signature and confirms that the person is who they are claiming to be. In the US, a notarial act must be done in person--it would be meaningless for a notary to notarize a signature on a piece of paper without knowing who signed it. How could a solicitor or a notary public be able to confirm the authenticity of the document any better than the Legalisation Office could?

Furthermore, as far as I know in the US, an apostille is a certification by the state that the signature affixed to an official document matches the signature on file with the state, and that it is authentic. When an apostille is affixed to a notarized document, the apostille has nothing to do with the original document--the apostille is affixed to the notary public's notarial certificate.

What would the solicitor or notary public be doing that allows the Legalisation Office to affix an apostille? Can someone shed some light on this?
posted by LDL707 to Law & Government (4 answers total)
what exactly would the solicitor or the notary public be certifying?

Usually when a solicitor certifies a document it's just to confirm that it's a true copy of the original. So if you present the original letter to the solicitor, a copy or two will be taken and the certification put on the copy or copies. All the wording will say is that the solicitor certifies that this is a true copy of the original. That's all I ever needed to do. The fee for a solicitor certifying something will be about £10. For a notary it's more, but there's no legal distinction between a certified or notarised copy, if all you need to do is get it certified.

posted by essexjan at 12:11 AM on January 24, 2013

Response by poster: How is that in any way better than just sending the original document? And wouldn't the Legalisation Office only be affirming the authenticity of the solicitor's signature, and not the original document?
posted by LDL707 at 1:43 AM on January 24, 2013

I recently had a need to have a document notarised for overseas purposes. I found the following site reasonably useful:

My sense was that the notary had a legal obligation to make sure the document was true - more so than just having a person of good standing certify a document / signature.
posted by sagwalla at 2:07 AM on January 24, 2013

IAAL, IANYL, TINLA. As it happens, I once spent a summer in law school dedicated to document authentication and the Hague Convention on Legalization of Foreign Public Documents.

Under the Convention, apostilles are exclusively issued by the competent authority. In the UK, it is the Legalisation Office.Some jurisdictions will include any notarized document under the definition of "public document" for Hague Convention purposes, and the UK may follow this practice. But in this case, the letter was issued by the UK Public Archives so it is already a public document. So, I frankly do not know what a notary public or solicitor is supposed to bring to the table. In fact, in the Anglo-American jurisdictions, a notary public usually cannot authenticate a public document. Perhaps the Legislation Office did not understand that the letter in question is a public document.

What the apostille does is authenticate a public document to be used overseas. It has nothing to do with signatures on the document. For example, someone who went to a state university could have an apostille affixed to his diploma to authenticate it for use in a convention country.

I would call the Legalisation Office back and explain that you have a public document to be authenticated and see what they say. They can affix the apostille or stamp it right on the document. I prefer that it be stamped on the document itself.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:30 AM on January 24, 2013

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