Notarised translations with apostille
A simple explanation of notarisation and apostille in the UK is that they are levels of official authority added to a document to certify it is genuine and make it legal. The process of getting an apostille on a document is sometimes referred to as legalising the document.
In the case of translations, the usual process is as follows:
- Certified translation The translator translates the document and certifies that it is translated correctly
- Notarise the translation The notary certifies that the translator’s details are genuine
- Apostille the notarised translation The government certifies that the notary’s details are genuine
Understand what level of certification you need
You may find that you also need to notarise or apostille your document before having it translated, to first prove that it is genuine.
Important Once you have legalised the original document, you may also need to repeat the process for the translation
The process would therefore be:
- Legalise the original: Notarise and/or apostille the document to prove it is genuine. (It is now a ‘legal’ document).
- Certified Translation: The translator translates the legalised document and certifies that it is translated correctly
- Notarise the translation: The notary certifies that the translator’s details are genuine
- Apostille the notarised translation: The government certifies that the notary’s details are genuine (The translation is now also a ‘legal’ document)
Apostille on documents for use abroad
If you need translated documents for official use with foreign authorities, you will often find that you are asked to notarise and/or apostille them.
The first thing you should check is whether the authority you are dealing with wants the original documents notarised, or the translations, or both. It is important that you know this before you start, or you might find that you have to repeat processes and fees later on.
The difference depends on whether you need to prove the original documents are genuine, prove the translations are accurate, or both.
Important Tip: If you need to prove the originals are genuine, you should do so before arranging the translation, as any extra statements or seals added the document will also need to be translated.
Prove your original documents are genuine
An apostille is a certificate added by a government department to your papers, confirming that the signature, stamp or seal on them is from a genuine public official. In this way, it ‘legalises’ your document. It is sometimes called a Hague Apostille.
In the UK, this is done by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Milton Keynes. You complete an online application form here and post the cover sheet and your document to the FCO.
Assuming they are able to verify the stamp, they will return your document with the apostille certificate attached to the back. The apostille will look very similar to this:
When do you need to use a notary?
An apostille issued in the UK can only verify the signature, stamp or seal of a registered public official from the UK.
This means that if you need an apostille on a foreign document, you will either need to apply for one in that country, or go through the step of having it notarised by a UK Notary Public first.
The same applies if your document was created in the UK but by someone who is not considered a ‘public official’. For example, this includes wills, personal letters, company documents and so on. It also includes certified translations.
A Notary Public is a specialist solicitor who is considered a public official, as they are listed on a government-recognised register. They certify or witness a document and signature. This is done in person, where you take your document to an appointment and swear in their presence either that the document is genuine (if it was created by someone else) or that you are the person who signed it.
Once a document has been notarised in this way, it can be sent to the FCO for apostille, as the notary stamp will be listed on their records.
What does a notarisation look like?
Having satisfied themselves of the relevant details, the Notary creates and signs a formal statement, either on a full-page certificate or in the form of a stamp, which they add to the translation.
A notary certificate on a certified translation will look a little like this:
Prove your translations are accurate
It is important to remember that although getting a translation notarised and apostilled makes it a legal document, this is not the same as proving the accuracy of the translation itself. This is what the translator themselves certifies, in their statement on the front of the certified translation and is the main reason to make sure you use a registered, approved translator.
Important: Getting a translation notarised and apostilled makes it a legal document but only the translator themselves certifies that it is translated accurately
Getting it right
The key to choosing the right level of certification to get on a translation is always to check with the relevant authority exactly what they need.
You may find that you need to notarise or apostille your document before having it translated, to first prove that it is genuine. Once you have done that, you may need to repeat the process for the translations.
QST is a specialist agency dealing with Spanish and English translations. We use ITI and CIOL-registered translators to create certified translations and we work regularly with local Notaries for notarised translations that need a Hague Apostille. Read here for more information or contact us for a quote.