An Apostille is a certificate that makes ‘local’ documents valid for international use. You may hear people referring to the ‘legalisation of documents’ – ‘legalisation’ being the certification of the document with an Apostille.
Apostilles are only valid in jurisdictions that have adopted the provisions of the Hague Convention on the mutual recognition of documents, which includes the UK and France.
In essence an Apostille is a certificate (sometimes a stamp) which is attached to a document (such as a power of attorney) by the ‘local’ court in France or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK. The Apostille authenticates the identity of the person certifying or witnessing the document, it does not change the nature of the document itself.
An Apostille can be obtained on the signature of a solicitor or barrister as well as a notary public. Often French notaires will prefer the signature of a UK notary public, even though, strictly speaking this is seldom required.
In France Apostille are often free, whereas in the UK there is a charge levied by the FCO, and your legal advisor will also charge for their time.
As French notaires often do not realise there is a charge in the UK they will usually ask for an Apostille on each document – which could be expensive if several documents need to be legalized at the same time. Remembering that an Apostille authenticates the signature of the professional, to save costs you can ask your notaire to accept just one Apostille, on the ground that the signatures on all of the accompanying documents are the same.
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