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The e-Apostille: An Important Step by the UK FCDO to Modernise the System with a Sustainable Approach

In an increasingly globalised world, where international transactions, legal documents, and cross-border business activities have become the norm, the need for efficient and secure authentication of documents is paramount. The Hague Apostille Convention, which simplifies the process of legalising documents for use abroad, has been a significant development in this regard. The United Kingdom, through the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Legalisation Office, has taken a significant step forward in this regard by introducing the electronic Apostille (e-Apostille) after a successful trial period in 2022, streamlining the entire process and making it more accessible than ever.

Hague Apostille certificate document corner and red notary public stamp on official document seen on the blurred background.

The Apostille Convention

The Apostille Convention, also known as the Hague Apostille Convention abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents, is an international treaty established in 1961. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the international recognition of public documents issued in one signatory country when presented in another. This treaty has been adopted by more than 120 countries, including the United Kingdom.

Traditionally, obtaining an Apostille involved a time-consuming and lengthy process. The document in question have to be physically presented to the FCDO either directly via postal service or via a third-party agent such as Westminster Legalisation Services, to obtain the Apostille. However, by introducing the electronic Apostille, the UK has revolutionised the process, making it simpler, more efficient, and accessible to everyone.

The Electronic Apostille: A Game-Changer

The e-Apostille, is a digital version of the traditional paper-based Apostille certificate. The documentation to be eligible for electronic Apostille, must be digitally signed by a UK notary public or solicitor and their digital signature must be either an Advanced Electronic Signature (AES) or a Qualified Electronic Signature (QES), and explicitly issued in their name. The FCDO do not accept Simple Electronic Signatures.

After verification the verification process is completed, and the documentation is deemed eligible, the FCDO issues an electronic Apostille certificate (e-Apostille). This certificate is a digital representation of the traditional paper-based Apostille and includes the FCDO link for verification.

The e-Apostille is accessible through a secure online portal, enabling the applicant to receive the Apostilled document within 48 hours and share it immediately in electronic format across the globe.

Benefits of the Electronic Apostille

The introduction of the electronic Apostille by the UK FCDO offers several advantages:

Speed and Efficiency: The online application and electronic verification process significantly reduce the time it takes to obtain an Apostille. This is especially beneficial for urgent and time-sensitive matters. We can have an e-Apostille usually issued between 5 to 48 hours.

Cost-Effective: Eliminating the need for physical documents and in-person visits or postal services to government offices reducing costs for applicants.

Enhanced Security: The electronic Apostille comes with security features like digital signatures and link for instant verification of authenticity, enhancing the document’s security and authenticity. Any attempts to tamper with the document would invalidate the document and bring up a warning to the FCDO that the document had been modified.

Accessibility: The digital certificate can be easily shared via email or other electronic means to multiple authorities simultaneously, making it more accessible for international transactions. It is important to note that printing out the electronic Apostille invalidates it. The e-Apostille can only be exchanged electronically.

Environmental Benefits: The move toward digital Apostilles reduces the need for physical paperwork, contributing to a more sustainable approach.

Documents that cannot get an Electronic Apostille

The FCDO currently cannot accept certain documents for electronic Apostille. This includes birth/death/marriage certificates or Certificates of No Impediment (CNI) issued by the Civil Registry Offices in the UK, as well as UK Criminal Records certificates (ACRO, DBS, Scottish Basic Disclosure, Northern Ireland Basic Disclosure), or fingerprint certificates.

It is important to check with the requesting party overseas whether the e-Apostille is acceptable or they require the paper-based Apostille for the specific purpose needed.

In summary, the introduction of the electronic Apostille (e-Apostille) by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) represents a significant step forward in simplifying the process of authenticating documents for international use. This innovative approach not only streamlines the process but also enhances security, reduces costs, and makes the Apostille accessible to a wider range of applicants. As the world continues to become more interconnected, the e-Apostille is a testament to the UK’s commitment to facilitating and modernising international transactions and legalisation proceedings with a more sustainable approach, while also embracing the benefits of technology.

Our Expert Team at Westminster Legalisation Services is ready to assist with your e-Notarisation and e-Apostille requests. Contact us

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China Acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention Abolishing the Consulate Legalisation Requirement

On 8th March 2023,  the People’s Republic of China (PRC) formally acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention of 1961, effectively abolishing the necessity for the legalisation of foreign public documents when exchanged between the Convention’s member states.

The Hague Apostille Convention is set to come into full effect for China on November 7th, 2023, marking a significant milestone in international diplomatic relations. With China’s accession, the Convention now boasts a total of 91 member states. The primary objective of this Convention is to streamline the intricate and lengthy process of document legalisation, replacing it with a more straightforward Apostille procedure. 

As a direct consequence of China’s membership in the Hague Convention, all United Kingdom public documents once attested by the Hague Apostille issued by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), will be legally recognised for direct submission to the Chinese local authorities. This negates the need for additional legalisation by the Chinese Consulate or Chinese Visa Centres in the United Kingdom.

It is worth noting that the Chinese Consulate has officially declared that the final day for document submission for legalisation will be Tuesday, October 31st, 2023. Any documents Apostilled after November 1st will be accepted in China solely with an Apostille attached. The Consulate is discontinuing its legalisation department entirely, with no exceptions for the legalisation of documents in the future once the Apostille is affixed.   

In conclusion, China’s accession to the Hague Apostille Convention, long-anticipated and now realised, represents a profoundly positive development. It is expected to significantly simplify and expedite the exchange of public documents between signatory member states. This achievement is poised to deliver considerable advantages to foreign investors engaging in business activities in China, as well as private individuals seeking visas to work and reside within he country or firms dealing with intellectual property matters in Chinese courts and administrative public departments.

For further information on how to get your documents legalised for use in China, please contact us. 

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Saudi Arabia accedes to the the Hague Apostille Convention

On 8th April 2022, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ratified the Hague Apostille Convention 1961, an International Agreement abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents between signatory countries.

The Apostille Convention will enter into force for Saudi Arabia on 7th December 2022. The Apostille Convention has now a total of 122 Contracting Parties.

As a result of being Signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention, all UK documents once certified by a UK practising solicitor or notary public and Apostilled by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is legally valid for submission to the local authorities in Saudi Arabia and no further legalisation by the Saudi Arabian Consulate in London will be available from 7th December.

For further information on how to get your documents legalised for use in Saudi Arabia, please contact us. 

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Singapore Joins the the Hague Apostille Convention

On 18th January 2021, Singapore ratified the Hague Apostille Convention 1961 (an International Agreement abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents between signatory countries) and became effective on 16th September 2021.

With Singapore being Party to the Hague Apostille Convention, all UK documents once certified by a UK notary public and Apostilled by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is legally valid for submission to the local authorities in Singapore and no further legalisation by the High Commission in London is required.

For further information on how to get your documents legalised for use in Singapore, please contact us.