Why are Some Documents Rejected for FCO Legalisation?

Customers contacting our office are often frustrated that their document has been rejected by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). When documents are rejected they are returned by the FCO apostille service with a standard letter that lists the reasons your document may not be suitable.

In this article we look at some of the common reasons documents are returned by the FCO legalisation team.

Reasons for rejected apostille applications

Any document submitted for the apostille must be signed by a public official, a solicitor or stamped by a relevant government office. This does not mean all signed and stamped documents will be suitable. The signature must be from a solicitor, notary public or government official of a high enough standing. Examples of government officials include registrars of births, marriages and deaths, vicars, priests, police officers, doctors, vets, coroners, Companies House registrars etc.

Let’s look in more detail at why your document may have been rejected

Missing signature

Unfortunately some documents simply have no signature. We frequently see government documents that have accidentally not been signed. When this happens you need to contact the issuing body to get the document signed.

Some documents are not signed at the time of issue. A common example is the disclosure criminal record check. The Disclosure Baring Service do not sign any of these criminal record background checks and further solicitor certification is required before it can be legalised.

PDF documents

When a document has been issued electronically in PDF format, it must have the correct statement applied. Many government documents are now issued as PDFs. This includes HMRC and court issued documents.

Incorrect certification

When a solicitor or notary public signs a document it must also be certified. The solicitor needs to include a statement why they have signed the document. For example, it may state ‘certified as a true copy’ or ‘document signed in my presence’.

Non-UK documents

If a document was not issued in the UK it may not be suitable for the UK apostille. Foreign qualifications cannot be legalised in the UK unless sufficient background checks are undertaken and the solicitor adds the correct information. Best practice is to always legalise documents in the country of origin.


Notary Publics in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must add their registered seal to all notarised documents (Scottish Notaries do not have official seals). They should also correctly bind documents together and not just use staples. Failure to adhere to these rules will lead to rejected documents.

No date

Most documents should contain a date. When was the document created or prepared? On what date was it signed? If the date is missing it cannot be issued with the apostille

How can we help?

Using our apostille service will help to minimise processing times. We can check documents are suitable before we submit them to the FCO. Hand processing documents ensures a quick turnaround. Most documents are processed in just 1 to 2 days compared to the FCO service that can take two weeks.

About the Author

The Apostille Service are pleased to provide advice on a wide range of document legalisation matters. Our team of advisors contribute to the blog.