Pandemic Processes with Foreign Offices, Consulates and Embassies

What is ‘legalisation’?

Depending on the intended destination country, some documents must be legalised by the foreign office of the intended destination country before those documents will be accepted in that country. Generally, there are 3 steps to the legalisation process in Australia (and in other countries too).

  1. Notarisation. Your documents are notarised by a notary public. This may involve the notary public witnessing your signature on the document or the notary public verifying or certifying copies of original documents.
  2. Authentication. Once your documents have been notarised, or if they’re original Australian government documents, those documents can be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on behalf of the Australian government. Authentication means DFAT has authenticated that your document has been properly notarised or that it’s an original Australian government document.
  3. Legalisation. After your documents have been authenticated by DFAT, you can arrange for them to be legalised by the foreign office of your intended destination country. This means sending them to the embassy or the consulate of that country where they verify that your documents have been authenticated by the Australian government. Once your document has been legalised, it generally will be accepted in the intended destination country.

Not all countries follow this process as there are some exceptions depending on the country and the documents, but if you familiarise yourself with this process, it should account for the majority of intended destination countries. If you’re still not sure about what process is required for the legalisation of documents going to your intended destination country, you should always obtain specific advice from your lawyer in that country or the foreign office of that country in Australia.

Legalisation during the global pandemic

The global pandemic has changed many things – including the way foreign offices operate in Australia. Even though the pandemic has been relatively mild in Australia compared to how it’s affected other countries, some foreign offices have implemented significant changes to their operations to address the health concerns for the safety of their staff, citizens and visitors to their offices. In fact, some foreign offices have limited appointment or availability, and some are even closed (only available by telephone, online or by email). Many of our clients have even commented that some offices are just uncontactable.

What do you do? How long will it take? How much will it cost?

In the past, we’ve assisted clients with their dealings with foreign offices – like handling the entire legalisation process from notarisation, authentication through to legalisation. Since March 2020, we’ve suspended those services.

Due to the restrictions imposed by the government and in order to comply with our own COVID-19 protocols (for the health and safety of our own team), we’re only assisting with the notarisation and authentication (with DFAT). You’ll need to undertake the final step of legalisation with the relevant foreign office yourself or otherwise make your own arrangements.

Of course, we still attempt to guide our clients through the process and how they might be able to complete the legalisation of their documents, but depending on the country and its foreign office, you’ll still need to make your own enquiries with the relevant foreign office if you need more information.

We also recommend that you check the requirements of the relevant foreign office of your intended destination country to determine whether they’re still open as some clients have reported that a number of embassies and consulates were closed. If the foreign office is open (or otherwise still processing and legalising documents) find out how they’re processing documents for legalisation, how long it takes and how much it costs. Regardless of what they may say in terms of processing times, always make sure to allow for extended processing times simply because it seems everything has been taking longer during the pandemic (or it’s an easy excuse for things to take longer).

Some regular destination countries that our clients send documents to include: