Legalising official documents (Authentication of Official Documents)
Some foreign authorities may request a document to be issued with an Apostille or an Authentication certificate before it will be accepted by that foreign country. This is referred to as ‘legalisation’.
Legalisation verifies that the signature, stamp or seal on it is genuine. We can legalise South African documents for use overseas.
Explore this page to learn:
- if you need a document legalised
- about legalisation
- which documents we can legalise
- translations and electronic documents
- how to submit your documents for legalisation
Before submitting your documents to us for legalisation, contact the receiving authority. Ask what they need, and for a list of people who can legalise the documents.
Do I need my document legalised?
You must ask the receiving authority what documents they want, and which ones you must get legalised.
We can't tell you what authority in another country wants, needs or expects. You must ask them directly. Be aware that many overseas authorities don't ask for legalised documents. They may accept your originals or copies as-is.
Some common examples of when authorities ask for legalised documents are below.
- If you're going overseas to study or work, the receiving authority may ask for a range of South African documents. This could include your degree, transcript and other identity documents. Some you'll just need to be notarised, others you'll need to be legalised.
- Employers often ask for legalised education documents. Academic fraud is a common issue worldwide. Legalising documents is part of a wider process to verify people's credentials.
- If you're going overseas to get married, the overseas authority may ask for South African documents. They may want proof that you're free to marry. This could include a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI), divorce certificate or other evidence.
- If your child is travelling without both parents, the overseas authorities may ask for documents. You may need to present court or other documents to prove your child can travel. This helps prevent international parental child abduction
You must ask the receiving authority overseas what they expect of you. Or ask an official from their embassy or consulate in South Africa.
What is document legalisation?
Document legalisation is the process to verify a signature, stamp or seal on a document. Once legalised, a person can use it in another country.
- Some authorities may not recognise or accept a foreign document until it's legalised.
- The government in each country can only legalise documents issued in their country.
- Once verified, officials issue an apostille or authentication certificate on the original document.
In some cases, documents must be notarized before you can submit them for us to legalise.
Who can legalise documents for use overseas?
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) is the South African legalisation authority. No other authority in South Africa can 'legalise' documents. However, others can 'notarise' them.
We deliver our legislation services in South Africa and overseas.
Who can notarize documents for use overseas?
South African Notary Publics can 'notarise' documents for use overseas. This is different from legalising. Get a quote here or Email email@example.com
Many receiving authorities are satisfied with a notarized document. They may not ask you to take the extra step to get it legalised.
We can't tell you what an overseas authority wants. Always ask them to specify what they need.
Authentication and apostilles
The South African government legalises documents by issuing either an apostille or authentication certificate.
We apply either an apostille or authentication certificate to the original document you supply.
The apostille or authentication certificate verifies the signature, stamp or seal on the original document or that of the Notary Public for documents they've notarized.
We can't advise which one you need. You must ask the receiving authority overseas what they want. Or, ask an official from their Embassy or Consulate in South Africa.
Documents we can legalise
We can legalise many types of documents for use overseas. Documents must be South African public documents. This means documents that are:
- originals issued by South African government agency or official
- originals issued by South African educational institution
- copies notarised by South African Notary Public
We can legalise private documents, once they are notarized by the South African Notary Public. If a document is notarized, it becomes a 'public document'.
South African Government documents
We can legalise many original South African Government documents.
This includes most documents issued by the Department of Home Affairs. It also includes documents issued by courts, police and government departments.
We can legalise South African:
- birth certificates, including ceremonial certificates and extracts
- marriage certificates (excluding ceremonial certificates)
- death certificates
- Single Status or Record of No Result certificates
- court documents, including Divorce Certificates
- Police Criminal Record Checks/ Police Clearance or Fingerprint Reports
- South African citizenship certificate or International Movement Record (Department of Home Affairs)
- South African government commercial documents
- other South African government-issued documents
We only accept original documents or copies of documents notarised by the South African Notary Public.
South African university documents
We can legalise most official university documents from South African institutions. This includes documents from public and private universities.
We can legalise South African degrees, awards, transcripts, certificates, letters and other official tertiary documents. We can legalise your original document, or a copy notarized by the South African Notary Public.
We don't accept any foreign education documents. Even if notarised by the South African Notary Public.
Original university documents
You can submit original university documents for us to legalise, once verified by the university.
- You need to contact your university to verify your original degree as a 'true and accurate record'. This could be available via an online portal.
- We apply the apostille or authentication directly to the document you submit.
- If you don't want a mark on your original degree or transcript, supply us with a copy notarized by the South African Notary Public.
Notarised copies of university documents
If you plan to submit a copy of your South Africa tertiary education document, the copy must meet specific requirements.
- We can accept copies notarized by the South African Notary Public. Ask the Notary about the process.
- Copies notarized by a Notary Public also need to be verified by the university. The Notary will coordinate this.
- There's specific wording the South African Notary Public must use when they notarise your copy. They must state that 'the original record has been verified with the issuing institution'. A statement by a Notary Public that the document is a ‘true copy’ does not satisfy this verification.
Other South African documents
We can legalise many documents notarized by a Notary Public in South Africa. These may include:
- private documents (e.g., Power of Attorney, wills, bank statements, company documents)
- documents issued by an authorised South African chamber of commerce and industry
- documents in a foreign language, if prepared by a Notary Public in South Africa
We only accept other South African documents once notarised in South Africa. If you need any other kind of documents legalised, first find a Notary Public in South Africa.
Translations and electronic official South African documents
Translating your document (of Other languages from other language translators)
(NOTE: This is only legalization service, Commissioner of Oaths, Translator & Interpreter of the Supreme Court only offer Portuguese to English or English to Portuguese Translation Services)
We can legalise some translated documents. The translation you submit for legalisation must include:
- the translator's name and a wet-signature
- the official seal (stamp), including practitioners ID
- a short statement in English confirming it's a ‘true and accurate translation of the original’
- the date of the translation
You must also submit a copy of the original document, with a wet signature and/or seal from the translator.
The South African government endorses only sworn translations. We only accept translations completed by the Department of Justice certified translator.
Electronic official South African documents
We accept a limited range of official South African public documents electronically.
- We will assess your electronic document when you lodge this via mail or over the counter. We cannot confirm over the phone if a document can or cannot be processed.
- You may be asked to forward the original email or log in to a portal to prove the authenticity of the document.
- We only accept a limited range of electronic documents with no signature and/or seal; we will advise if documents need to be notarized first.
- Scanned copies are not electronic documents for our purposes and cannot be accepted.
How to submit a document for legalisation
The process to submit your documents for legalisation depends on their location.
- We deliver our services in South Africa by Email, DHL & Postnet
- Overseas, we deliver legalisation services through DHL and FEDEX.