Who Can Cer­ti­fy Doc­u­ments in the UK?

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Catrin, UK Solicitor
26/01/2024 ● 3 minutes
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In this art­icle we will ex­plain what Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments are, in­clud­ing the dif­fer­ence between cer­ti­fied and not­ar­ised doc­u­ments, why you need cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments, as well as who can cer­ti­fy doc­u­ments in the UK.

In the UK, cer­tain pro­fes­sion­als and of­fi­cials are au­thor­ised to cer­ti­fy doc­u­ments, en­sur­ing their au­then­ti­city for legal and ad­min­is­trat­ive pur­poses.

In this art­icle, we will go through all the pro­fes­sion­als and of­fi­cials that can cer­ti­fy doc­u­ments in the UK.

What Is a Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ment?

Firstly, let’s start with the ques­tion what does ‘’cer­ti­fied doc­u­ment’’ mean?

A cer­ti­fied doc­u­ment is a copy of an ori­gin­al one that has been veri­fied by a qual­i­fied person as being an ac­cur­ate and ‘true copy’ of the ori­gin­al. Cer­ti­fic­a­tion is achieved by a writ­ten state­ment to that effect, which is then signed and dated by the cer­ti­fier on the copy doc­u­ment.

The cer­ti­fy­ing person also adds an of­fi­cial sig­na­ture, stamp, or a seal to the cer­ti­fied doc­u­ment.

Cer­ti­fic­a­tion Re­quire­ments

Note, that when it comes to cer­ti­fy­ing doc­u­ments in the UK, the cer­ti­fier must have been presen­ted with the ori­gin­al doc­u­ment for the cer­ti­fic­a­tion to be car­ried out.

Usu­ally cer­ti­fic­a­tion is an in-person pro­cess at a law office. However, Aatos will be launch­ing a fully remote Cer­ti­fic­a­tion Ser­vice (more about this below), as our mis­sion is to make law easy, while main­tain­ing the highest levels of se­cur­ity and com­pli­ance.

The exact re­quire­ments for cer­ti­fy­ing doc­u­ments are usu­ally set out by the body that re­quires the cer­ti­fic­a­tion. For ex­ample, they may spe­cify who they want to cer­ti­fy the doc­u­ment (e.g., only a So­li­citor). The body re­quir­ing the cer­ti­fic­a­tion may also spe­cify the exact word­ing that must be used.

Oth­er­wise, the Law So­ci­ety has con­firmed that “…There are no spe­cif­ic rules that apply to the cer­ti­fic­a­tion of doc­u­ments in the same way as there are for the swear­ing of oaths, af­firm­a­tions and de­clar­a­tions.’’

Read more: How to Cer­ti­fy a Doc­u­ment in the UK?

Of­fi­cials that Can Cer­ti­fy Doc­u­ments in the UK

Legal prac­ti­tion­ers, in­clud­ing so­li­cit­ors and bar­ris­ters, are com­monly en­trusted with this re­spons­ib­il­ity, given their com­pre­hens­ive un­der­stand­ing of the law. Notary pub­lics, spe­cial­ists in legal au­then­tic­a­tion and cer­ti­fic­a­tion, also play a cru­cial role in this pro­cess. Gov­ern­ment rep­res­ent­at­ives, such as those hold­ing of­fi­cial po­s­i­tions in local or na­tion­al gov­ern­ment, are re­cog­nised for their au­thor­ity to cer­ti­fy doc­u­ments.

Ad­di­tion­ally, post of­fices, bank or build­ing so­ci­ety of­fi­cials can provide cer­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vices, lever­aging their po­s­i­tion of trust within the fin­an­cial sector.

Soon, Aatos will join this list of au­thor­ised bodies, of­fer­ing doc­u­ment cer­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vices to meet vari­ous legal and formal re­quire­ments. This ex­pan­sion re­flects the on­going evol­u­tion of legal ser­vices to ac­com­mod­ate the di­verse needs of the public and the legal system in the UK.

So­li­cit­ors who are au­thor­ised to prac­tice law are the go-to choice for cer­ti­fic­a­tion in the UK, as they have the ne­ces­sary legal au­thor­ity, qual­i­fic­a­tions, and ex­pert­ise re­quired to provide a re­li­able and trusted cer­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vice. Many legal busi­nesses and law firms offer doc­u­ment cer­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vices.

Notary Public

A Notary Public is also au­thor­ised to handle cer­ti­fic­a­tions. Their cer­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vices are usu­ally used when doc­u­ments or trans­ac­tions have an in­ter­na­tion­al ele­ment (be­cause they fre­quently verify and cer­ti­fy doc­u­ments for use abroad). However, their ser­vices gen­er­ally come at a higher price com­pared to reg­u­lar So­li­cit­ors.

Gov­ern­ment Rep­res­ent­at­ives

Some gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, such as court clerks or em­bassy staff, also have the power to cer­ti­fy some doc­u­ments, es­pe­cially in con­tex­ts of send­ing doc­u­ments abroad for visa pur­poses.

Bank or Build­ing So­ci­ety Of­fi­cials

Some banks or build­ing so­ci­ety of­fi­cials are au­thor­ised to cer­ti­fy cer­tain doc­u­ments, es­pe­cially those re­lated to fin­an­cial mat­ters.

Aatos (soon)

Aatos will soon be launch­ing a highly af­ford­able and totally remote ser­vice, where our law­yers can cer­ti­fy your doc­u­ments online by lever­aging the latest com­pli­ance tech­no­lo­gy.

Keep your eyes peeled for this ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment! 👀

Check­list on Who Can Cer­ti­fy Doc­u­ments

Pro­fes­sionEx­amples of Eli­gible Cer­ti­fi­ers
Legal Pro­fes­sion­alsSo­li­citor, Bar­rister, Li­censed Con­vey­ancer
Medical Pro­fes­sion­alsDoctor, Dentist, Phar­macist
Gov­ern­ment Of­fi­cialsCivil Ser­vant, Dip­lo­mat, Coun­cil­lor
Fin­an­cial Pro­fes­sion­alsChartered Ac­coun­tant, Bank Of­ficer with 5+ years of ex­per­i­ence
Edu­ca­tion­al Pro­fes­sion­alsTeach­er, Lec­turer, Col­lege/Uni­versity Ad­min­is­trator
Re­li­gious Of­fi­cialsPriest, Imam, Rabbi
OthersPost Office Of­fi­cial, Police Of­ficer, Judge, Ma­gis­trate

Standard Cer­ti­fic­a­tion Word­ing

The fol­low­ing word­ing is most com­monly in­cluded when a pho­to­graph­ic doc­u­ment (such as a pass­port) is being cer­ti­fied:

‘Cer­ti­fied to be a true copy of the ori­gin­al and a true likeness to [insert name of person] seen by me.’

If the doc­u­ment does not con­tain a pho­to­graph (for in­stance, if it is a uni­versity tran­script or a util­ity bill) then the word­ing can be ad­apted as fol­lows:

‘Cer­ti­fied to be a true copy of the ori­gin­al seen by me.’

When a copy of a doc­u­ment needs to be cer­ti­fied it’s gen­er­ally not ne­ces­sary to cer­ti­fy every page if the pages of the doc­u­ment are all to­geth­er in order, and the top page is cer­ti­fied as de­scribed above.

💡 You should always check what ex­actly is re­quired with the body re­questing the cer­ti­fied copy before pro­ceed­ing to re­quest the cer­ti­fic­a­tion, as re­quire­ments do vary.

When do you need to Cer­ti­fy Doc­u­ments?

Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments are often needed when you make im­port­ant life de­cisions. Nav­ig­at­ing situ­ations like edu­ca­tion­al or em­ploy­ment pro­cesses, visa ap­plic­a­tions, and business trans­ac­tions, all usu­ally re­quire cer­tain doc­u­ments to be cer­ti­fied.

Here are some de­tailed ex­amples of when you may be asked to provide cer­ti­fied copies of doc­u­ments:

  • Im­mig­ra­tion Pro­ced­ures: For mat­ters like visa ap­plic­a­tions or cit­izen­ship pro­cesses, cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments often stand as proof of a person’s iden­tity and other cru­cial de­tails to sup­port the ap­plic­a­tion pro­cess. In this situ­ation, the doc­u­ments to be cer­ti­fied could in­clude pass­ports, birth cer­ti­fic­ates and mar­riage li­censes.
  • Edu­ca­tion­al Sub­mis­sions: Many aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions re­quest cer­ti­fied copies of aca­demic re­cords such as tran­scripts, dip­lo­mas, or cer­ti­fic­ates for ad­mis­sion pro­cesses or schol­ar­ship ap­plic­a­tions. The cer­ti­fic­a­tion pro­cess helps to ensure that the ap­plic­ant’s cre­den­tials are genu­ine and ac­cur­ate.
  • Legal or Business Con­tex­ts: Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments may also be re­quired when open­ing ac­coun­ts, set­ting up a com­pany, or ap­ply­ing for a job.
  • Lost doc­u­ments: Cer­ti­fied copies of doc­u­ments may also be needed when the ori­gin­al doc­u­ment has been lost or cannot be provided for other reas­ons.

Read more: What is At­test­a­tion?

Why are Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments im­port­ant?

Here are the key reas­ons why cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments are im­port­ant:

  • Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments help to shield against po­ten­tial fraud­u­lent activ­it­ies by con­firm­ing the au­then­ti­city of doc­u­ments;
  • Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments con­firm the ac­cur­acy of in­form­a­tion;
  • Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments sat­is­fy legal or reg­u­lat­ory re­quire­ments; and
  • Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments en­hance the trust­wor­thiness of per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al ap­plic­a­tions.

In sum­mary, Cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments are im­port­ant for sev­er­al reas­ons, and their sig­ni­fic­ance lies in provid­ing an ad­di­tion­al layer of au­then­ti­city, re­li­ab­il­ity, and trust­wor­thiness to cer­tain types of doc­u­ments.

Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments Vs. Not­ar­ised Doc­u­ments

In dif­fer­ent con­tex­ts, you may need your doc­u­ments Cer­ti­fied or al­tern­at­ively you may need them to be "Not­ar­ised." Both pro­cesses play im­port­ant roles in veri­fy­ing the au­then­ti­city of doc­u­ments, but they each serve dif­fer­ing pur­poses.

So, let’s ex­plore the dif­fer­ences between Cer­ti­fied and Not­ar­ised doc­u­ments to help you un­der­stand when and why you might need each of them.

Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments

As men­tioned, Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments are copies of ori­gin­al doc­u­ments that have been veri­fied as 'true' copies by a qual­i­fied person.

The primary pur­pose of cer­ti­fy­ing a doc­u­ment is to provide as­sur­ance that it's a genu­ine copy of the ori­gin­al, es­pe­cially when the ori­gin­al doc­u­ment is re­quired for legal pur­poses.

Here are some key points to note about Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments:

1. Cer­ti­fied by a Pro­fes­sion­al

Doc­u­ments are usu­ally cer­ti­fied by a So­li­citor who is au­thor­ised to prac­tice law in their jur­is­dic­tion. So, in the UK, this would be a qual­i­fied So­li­citor that is re­gistered with and reg­u­lated by the SRA (the So­li­cit­ors Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity). You can look up the re­cords of the so­li­cit­ors and law firms they reg­u­late.

Qual­i­fied So­li­cit­ors are an ideal choice for cer­ti­fy­ing doc­u­ments, as they have the ne­ces­sary legal au­thor­ity and the ex­pert­ise re­quired to provide a re­li­able and trusted cer­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vice. They also tend to be more cost-ef­fect­ive than a Notary Public.

2. True Copy

The cer­ti­fy­ing person care­fully com­pares the copy to the ori­gin­al doc­u­ment to ensure it is a true, com­plete, and up to date copy of the ori­gin­al.

This pro­cess does not in­volve cer­ti­fy­ing that the primary doc­u­ment is genu­ine, only that it is a true copy of the ori­gin­al.

3. Common Uses

Cer­ti­fied copies of doc­u­ments are often re­quired for of­fi­cial pur­poses, such as open­ing a bank ac­count or ap­ply­ing to Uni­versity.

For the ma­jor­ity of trans­ac­tions that do not have an in­ter­na­tion­al ele­ment, a not­ar­ised doc­u­ment is not re­quired – cer­ti­fied copies are enough.

Not­ar­ised Doc­u­ments

Not­ar­ised Doc­u­ments are doc­u­ments that have been signed in the pres­ence of a Notary Public, often simply re­fer­red to as a Notary.

Not­ar­ies are spe­cial­ist law­yers and mem­bers of the oldest branch of the legal pro­fes­sion in the UK. They are reg­u­lated through the Fac­ulty Office of the Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury.

Al­though being a Notary is a sep­ar­ate pro­fes­sion to being a So­li­citor, the rules that affect Not­ar­ies are very sim­il­ar to the rules af­fect­ing So­li­cit­ors.

Not­ar­ies are most com­monly used to wit­ness, au­then­tic­ate and pre­pare copies of cer­tain doc­u­ments for use abroad. The primary pur­pose is to con­firm that the legal doc­u­ment is valid and can be relied upon.

Here's what you should know about Not­ar­ised Doc­u­ments:

1. Wit­nessed by a Notary Public

A Notary can serve as an im­par­tial wit­ness when im­port­ant doc­u­ments are signed, with the primary role being to verify the au­then­ti­city of sig­na­tures and ensure the proper ex­e­cu­tion of cer­tain doc­u­ments.

2. Con­firm­a­tion of Iden­tity

The Notary con­firms the iden­tity of the person sign­ing the doc­u­ment through per­son­al iden­ti­fic­a­tion, such as a driver's li­cense or pass­port.

3. Common Uses

Not­ar­ised doc­u­ments are often re­quired for in­ter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions.

Common types of doc­u­ments that may also re­quire not­ar­isa­tion in­clude: Af­fi­davits, Power of At­torney Deeds, and Mort­gages, as this provides an extra layer of legal valid­ity and au­then­ti­city.

Check from the Table: Cer­ti­fied or Not­ar­ised?

 Cer­ti­fiedNot­ar­ised
Ensure a true copy of the ori­gin­al🚫
Con­firm that the primary doc­u­ment is valid🚫
Doc­u­ments for of­fi­cial pur­poses (e.g. open­ing a bank ac­count or ap­ply­ing to Uni­versity)✅/🚫
Doc­u­ments for in­ter­na­tion­al trans­ac­tions (e.g. Af­fi­davits, Power of At­torney Deeds, and Mort­gages)🚫
Im­par­tial wit­ness for doc­u­ments🚫

So, in short, Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments focus on con­firm­ing that the doc­u­ment is a true copy of the ori­gin­al, while Not­ar­ised Doc­u­ments con­firm that a legal doc­u­ment is valid and can be relied upon.

De­pend­ing on your spe­cif­ic needs, you may re­quire one or both types of doc­u­ments to nav­ig­ate legal, edu­ca­tion­al, or ad­min­is­trat­ive pro­cesses ef­fect­ively.

In sum­mary, we have provided an in-depth ex­plan­a­tion of Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing what they are, the dis­tinc­tion between Cer­ti­fied and Not­ar­ised doc­u­ments, and those pro­fes­sion­als who are au­thor­ised to cer­ti­fy doc­u­ments in the UK (in­clud­ing Aatos👀).  Our art­icle has also high­lighted the spe­cif­ic legal and business con­tex­ts where cer­ti­fied doc­u­ments are needed.

So, it should now be clear that Cer­ti­fied Doc­u­ments play a key role in main­tain­ing the in­teg­rity of im­port­ant re­cords and en­sur­ing that trans­ac­tions and pro­cesses pro­ceed smoothly and with legal valid­ity.

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