How-to guide: Six steps to legalising your Australian documents when you’re working overseas

If you’re an Australian living overseas and you intend to work in your host country, you may be required to provide a number of documents as part of your work visa application.

If you organised these in Australia before you left — great! But if you’re attempting to do this while you’re overseas, the process can be complicated and time-consuming. Many countries require the documents to be legalised (made legal) in the country of origin. For example, your Australian university degree needs to be legalised in Australia – it’s not something that can be done by the Australian embassy in the host country.

Not only is it impractical and expensive to have to return to Australia to complete this process, current COVID-19 travel restrictions have made this virtually impossible. So, what are your options?

Thankfully, it’s now possible to complete the document legalisation process online, without you having to leave your host country or travel to an embassy. There are a few steps you’ll need to follow, however. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Step one: Obtain your original degree certificate
  • Step two: Verify your degree
  • Step three: Find an Australian notary to issue a Notarial Certificate
  • Step four: Obtain Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) authentication
  • Step five: Obtain Foreign Embassy’s legalisation
  • Step six: Scan legalised documents

Step one: Obtain your original degree certificate

If you’ve brought your original degree certificate (or testamur) with you, then you’re already ahead! But if you don’t have it with you, or you’ve lost it, don’t worry. You can write directly to the university to request a replacement certificate (they may charge a fee for this). Or, you can provide us with a written authorisation to obtain the replacement certificate on your behalf.

Photo by Lewis Keegan - Skillscouter.com on Unsplash
online verification

Step two: Verify your degree

As well as your degree certificate, you’ll also need confirmation from the university that you’ve completed your qualifications. Some universities, such as the University of Melbourne, provide an online verification service to third parties free of charge. We can obtain the verification on your behalf — we may just need your authorisation to do so.

Step three: Find an Australian notary to issue a Notarial Certificate

Once you have copies of your degree certificate and verification, send them to an Australian notary who accepts digital documents. They will draft and issue a Notarial Certificate. A Notarial Certificate is a written, signed and sealed statement from an Australian Notary Public, certifying copies of the documents for use overseas. It also means the original documents don’t need to be marked in any way.

If you’ve got your original documents with you, some notaries can sight them online (e.g. via Zoom or Skype) in order to draft the Notarial Certificate. This means you keep your original documents with you – you don’t need to send them anywhere.

Notarised university degree
How to legalise Australian documents when working overseas

Step four: Obtain Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) authentication

Depending on the requirements of your host country, you may require the Notarial Certificate containing your degree and verification to be submitted to DFAT to be authenticated. For example, if you’re applying for a work visa in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Qatar, you’ll need to complete this step. For Commonwealth countries such as the United Kingdom, you’ll need to obtain an Apostille, which is a different process.

The authentication and return process usually takes about five business days, subject to any delivery delays.

Step five: Obtain Foreign Embassy’s legalisation

Once the documents have been authenticated by DFAT, they may also need to be legalised by the foreign embassy located in Australia. For the UAE, for example, this means the documents need to be sent to the UAE Embassy in Canberra.

The SmartPass portal sets out the UAE Embassy’s legalisation application and payment process. Once payment has been accepted, you’ll need to send your payment receipt, authenticated documents and cover letter to the embassy.

Notorial seal and qatar embassy stamp
Photo by Sema Martin on Unsplash

Step six: Scan legalised documents

You’ve received your legalised documents back from the embassy — it’s almost time to celebrate! Make sure you scan and save the documents. In some cases, you may be able to use your scanned copies to support your application, but requirements do vary from country to country, so make sure you check with the respective authorities. If you use an Australian authentication partner to handle this process for you, they will also send hard copies of your legalised documents to your nominated overseas address. 

We can take care of the document legalisation process from start to finish

If the above steps sound daunting, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many of our clients attempt to manage the process on their own, only to become frustrated with how complex and cumbersome it can be.

For a fixed fee, we take care of the entire document legalisation process for you. Whether you’re in Australia or overseas, we handle everything, including liaising with the embassy of the country your document is intended for.

Find out more about how we can help.

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How to legalise Australian documents when working overseas

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