What are the Differences between Legalisation and Notarisation?

What are the Differences between Legalisation and Notarisation

Relocation or emigration to a new country can seem daunting even though exciting because of the amount of administration and paperwork involved. As part of the immigration requirements, high chances are you will be required to legalise your documents before submitting them with your application.  This article explores the differences between legalisation and notarisation to help you plan your move.

Many countries including Germany, the United States, United Kingdom only recognise legalised international certificates or documents. The process of legalisation involves vetting the authenticity of a certificate or document issued by a legitimate issuing authority. The Embassies and Consulates of the destination countries play an important role in the vetting process. 

What is document Legalisation?

Legalisation is a formal validation of a document for use in an official capacity in another country. Examples of documents which require authentication and legalisation include powers of attorney, statutory declarations, birth certificates, death certificates, educational transcripts, affidavits, and certified true copies of original documents etc.

What is Notarisation?

Notarisation refers to the formal validation of a document by a Notary Public usually by signing and or certifying the document. When it comes to using of documents in a foreign jurisdiction, notarisation is most often required to: Witness your signature on the document; and/or Certify that a copy of the document was made from an original.

In Nigeria, notarisation refers to the procedure of certifying documents, whereas document legalisation entails the certification of documents which have already been authenticated at the embassy or mission of the foreign country where the document may be used or presented. A document must be authenticated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja before it can be legalised.

How to notarize documents in Nigeria

  1. Before the attestation of a certificate or document, a qualified Notary Public must first notarize such a document. This must be done before any authentication takes place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Qualified lawyers always carry out the notarization of documents.
  2. After the notarization has been concluded, the document would be brought to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, upon which one would be required to authenticate the document.
  3. There will be a required payment to be made for the certificate that is sought to be authenticated. The prescribed fee would be paid into the Ministry-designated bank account.
  4. Upon the completion of the payment, proof of payment (which is normally the bank teller or online payment slip) would be submitted to the Legal Services Department in the Ministry. The applicant may be asked to return to the embassy within a few days to pick up the authenticated documents.
  5. If the document involved is an academic certificate or transcript, the document must also be attested at the Federal Ministry of Education, where the applicant can either apply himself or through a lawful attorney only.
  6. After the authentication process, the document may be taken to the relevant embassy for legalization where such a process is further required

Having explored the differences between legalisation and notarisation, we can conclude that although they are both forms of legal certification, they have different procedures.


  1. N.Bande (2017) Nitty Gritties of document Legalisation accessed on October 6th 2022 from https://www.fragomen.com/insights/nitty-gritties-of-document-legalization.html
  2. Ministry of foreign affairs Nigeria Abuja  https://foreignaffairs.gov.ng
  3. Cambridge English Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, Legalisation and Notarisation accessed on October 6th 2022 from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/legalization

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Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya
Emmanuel Agherario