Posted on May 24, 2019 | By Jenni Fogg
22nd Mar 2019
Welcome to the minefield of notarisation, legalisation, authentication, certification and attestation for jobs teaching abroad. What does all this mean? Good question. Here at LoveTEFL, we’ve unravelled the wicked web for you, so we can provide you with this information in easy-to-digest chunks.
First a quick and simple glossary of the terms mentioned above:
Authentication and certification: these two mean the same thing – a solicitor looks at your certificate and completes a document to say that it’s real
Notarisation: a type of solicitor called a ‘notary public’ looks at your certificate and says that it’s real
Legalisation: after authentication, a department of the government sticks an apostille (a fancy, mini-certificate) to your certificate which formally makes it a legal document so that you can use it to get a work permit abroad
Attestation: the document will have to go through the embassy for your destination country, where it’ll be given a stamp
The reason you have to clamber through all this red tape is down to lots fake degree and TEFL certificates out there. People make a living out of selling fake documents, which are then used to get visas abroad. Unfortunately, this means having to tick all of these legal boxes to guarantee your employer that everything is legit.
Employers may ask for notarisation or authentication and legalisation or both. In the majority of cases though, it’ll just be authentication and legalisation – although this depends on the visa/work permit requirements in the country you’re moving to. For notarisation, you’ll follow a similar process, but will need to arrange an order with a notary public, instead of a solicitor.
Legalisation is what we’ll be talking about in this blog because this is what employers usually request of overseas English teachers. Your employer will tell you what documents need legalising – it might be your degree certificate, TEFL certificate and police check (such as a DBS in England) or a combination of the above.
In general, legalisation can be completed in two steps, but this depends on the country you’re moving to. You’ll need to take all three steps if you want to move to certain countries, like China or Vietnam. Let’s start with the two big ones.
#1 Authentication or certification
A solicitor needs to make sure your certificates are real and that you haven’t made them yourself on Microsoft Paint. This is a process called authentication or certification. There is a few things they need to do – including signing and dating the document and including their company address.
After this, you need to get an apostille for your certificate – this is a process called legalisation. An apostille is a kind of mini certificate which is printed and then stuck to your certificate, usually on the back. It means that whoever looks at your certificate knows that it’s the real deal and a legal document that can be used to help you get a work permit in your dream destination. If you have a TEFL certificate from a UK company, you’ll need to get an apostille through the UK government, through a department called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). If you have a certificate from another country, such as a university degree, you’ll need to get your certificates legalised in that country. Find out how to do this by searching legalising documents and the name of your country.
There are two ways to complete these steps:
Firstly, you can do it on your own – if you already have a solicitor or know a useful family friend, they can do step one: authenticate the certificate – although they might charge. You can then get an apostille through the relevant government department in the country your documents are from. For example, if you needed to get an apostille for your documents in the UK, you would do this through the FCO. You’ll need to pay for the cost of legalisation (£30 in the UK) plus postage to and from the government department, which will likely take a few days to process and however long the posting takes. We recommend using a courier service or recorded delivery. This can usually be done for both hard copies and e-certificates.
If you want to save yourself the fuss of finding a solicitor and then sending the documents off to the FCO (or equivalent), use a service that does everything for you, such as Vital Consular. Here, you pay for the legalisation online and then post off your certificate or send an e-certificate and they’ll do the rest. This includes getting it certified by a solicitor, issuing an apostille and sending the legalised document back to you in a few days.
Let’s go back to the third step, which you’ll need for some countries:
#3 Attestation (for certain countries)
This is where it gets a tiny bit complicated. There’s loads of countries around the world that are part of a group called the Hague Convention. If the country that issued your certificate and the country you want to move to are both in this group, you’ll just need to get your document legalised (by getting an apostille).
However (and this is the tricksy bit), if you’re going to a country that isn’t part of the Hague Convention, you’ll need to get an apostille for your certificate as well as a stamp from the embassy of the country you’re going to – this is a process called attestation.
Let’s say you’re off to start a dream job teaching English in Vietnam – you’ll need to pay for your certificate to get attested by the embassy. Basically, they just stamp it. Again, you can do this yourself by contacting the relevant embassy – you might be able to post your documents off or you might have to go in person and hand your documents over. Contact them first to find out what their procedure is. You can also use a service provider who do all the hard work for you.
To find out whether your destination requires documents to be attested, have a look at this list. If you can’t see the country on this list of Hague Convention members, you’ll probably need to get it attested.
Please note: Although we always do our best to keep up with changes (and let you know when they happen), you should always check the current procedures on your country’s government website as things can change without our knowledge.
If you found this article useful, you may also want to read Essential packing list: must-haves for your new life TEFL teaching abroad.