Getting documents legalized

legalization of documents

Getting ready to settle abroad often is about doing paperwork! Because in many countries authorities only accept legalized foreign documents, getting those you may need abroad authenticated before you leave is recommended. This procedure confirms a document was issued by someone with the proper authority and that the signature is genuine. Learn about the document legalization process. 

Legalization of documents: what for?

Legalization is an administrative procedure which proves the authenticity of an official document. A legalized document usually bears both a stamp and a signature. Various authorities abroad might ask you to provide authenticated documents. Legalizing a document will confirm:

  • the authenticity of the signature,
  • the capacity of the issuing authority,
  • the authenticity of the stamp.

Because of existing international agreements signed by different countries (in particular the Hague Convention of 1961), requirements may vary depending on which country you intend to use a document in. In some cases, getting a document authenticated may not be necessary or only an apostille will be needed. Get the right information before processing your documents!

Which documents can be legalized?

Do you need to provide a legalized letter of invitation for your visa application? Are you about to enroll in a university abroad and are required to supply an authenticated copy of your diploma? While getting ready for expatriation, you might need to have various types of official documents legalized:

  • birth, marriage or death certificates,
  • notarial acts and court documents,
  • diplomas and educational certificates,
  • police certificate,
  • letters of invitation,
  • letters of enrolment,
  • citizenship certificates,
  • affidavits,
  • policies and invoices…

Who can legalize documents?

Competent authorities for legalizing documents may vary depending on:

  • which country you are in when you request the authentication,
  • the country you intend to use the document in,
  • the type of document.

The cost of the legalization process varies from one country to another.

In your home country

The department or ministry of Foreign Affairs in your home country usually is responsible for legalizing documents for use abroad. The documents must be issued by your home country.


Your home country embassy or consulate can legalize documents for use in the country you are staying in.

What if you wish to legalize documents issued abroad?

You must get in touch with your home country embassy or consulate located in the country you are staying in. If you need to translate the documents, be sure to select a sworn translator. Quite frequently, you will first need to get a document legalized by the local authorities (usually by the department or ministry of Foreign Affairs).

To find out more about legalization of documents:

Find out which countries have signed the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents.

Date of publication June 19, 2014

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