Notarisation is usually required for documents which are to be used abroad. The Notary affixes their seal and signature to document(s) to indicate to the authorities in the destination country of the document that the relevant checks have been carried out that the document has been properly signed.
In many cases. documents which have been notarised will also need to be apostilled/ legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In affixing an apostille to a document which has been notarised, the FCO are verifying the authenticity of the Notary's signature and that they are qualified to notarise the document. Some documents issued by 'Officers of the Court' (eg. UK issued marriage certificates/ birth certificates/ divorce certificates) can be apostilled directly without the need for notarisation.
For countries which are signed up to the Hague Convention (for a list of such countries click here), attachment of an Apostille to the document is sufficient. For countries not signed up to the Convention, the 3rd stage of the legalisation process is consular legalisation. This requires the apostilled document to be submitted to the Consulate of the destination country who will attach their own certificate to it, verifying the authenticity of the FCO apostille. The costs and timescales for this varies depending on the embassy but our team of consular agents are on hand to clarify the requirements in each client's case.