TEFL Certificate Legalisation: How to Legalise Your Documents

Thanks to an increasingly globalised and borderless world, more people than ever are choosing to teach abroad. It’s great for seeing the world, exploring different cultures and seeking new challenges. But there are also righter restrictions on visas to contend with. When you land your dream TEFL job in China or Vietnam (these countries only), the next stage will be arranging your working or student visa. Working with embassies can be a bureaucratic rollercoaster, but our expert team is here to help you every step of the way. Part of this process is ‘legalisation’ or ‘notarisation’ of your documents. The most common is your TEFL certificate and university degree. If you haven’t done this before, don’t worry! We’re here to help.

What is ‘legalisation’ or ‘notarisation’ of a document?

Legalising or notarising your documents mean the same thing. It’s a legal process to ensure your documents – like a degree, TEFL certification or criminal background check – are legitimate and legally sound.

Why does this happen? Governments expect incoming foreign TEFL teachers to prove the credibility and legitimacy of their qualifications, which makes sense when you think about it.

Man holding TEFL certificate
Here are some steps on how to legalise (or notarise) your documents:

Submit a request for a criminal record check or Garda clearance form if it’s required by your employer. How much this costs depend on your country of origin. In Ireland, there is no cost. But in the UK it’s around £25 and in the USA it costs approximately $18. Be sure to check with your employer or the embassy that will be issuing your visa if you need to have this document legalised.

Next, find a solicitor or notary public to legalise your documents. A Google search will show you who and where they are. The cost per document notarised will depend on the solicitor or notary public. But it’s usually around €40.

Send your document for an Apostille stamp (only if specifically requested by the embassy or your employer). In the UK, the standard service costs £30 per document, plus courier fees or postage.

Take your legalised documents to the embassy to get that visa stamped onto your passport! There are companies, which offer visa services, that can do this for you if you can’t go in person.

Remember to keep the timeframe in mind during these four steps. It can take 6-8 weeks to get your visa. So, don’t delay preparing your documents.

What is an Apostille stamp?

An Apostille stamp is an official certificate for legalisation, which confirms that a document has been signed by a notary public or other public official. You may be requested to get an apostille stamp on your documents. It means your documents will be recognised when presented in another country.

Be aware of the signatory countries to The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents – essentially the Apostille Convention. Countries not signed to the treaty require an Apostille stamp. China and Saudi Arabia are two examples.

Only government bodies can issue an Apostille stamp. Since the TEFL Institute is a UK-accredited education provider, the UK Department of Foreign Affairs will issue you your Apostille stamp. There are also companies that can help you with this process. Plus, they can tailor the service to the country you plan to teach in.

Get in touch with us and we can guide you through the apostille stamp process.

What is a Notary Public and where can I find one?

A notary is a qualified lawyer who is certified to legalise documents. You can Google “where is my nearest notary public” to find a legal professional who can carry out the notarisation process for you. It’s a very important procedure for TEFL teachers. Legalising your documents guarantees your certifications are legally recognised and accepted by international schools.

What documents should I legalise before teaching English abroad?

Don’t worry, your future employer and the embassy that will issue your visa will tell you this. Our team also has expert knowledge in this area, so we can help. From our experience teaching abroad, there are a variety of documents that can be requested to legalise including:

  • University degree
  • Criminal background check
  • TEFL certificate

Remember, you’ll need to cover the cost to legalise each document. Once they are legalised, you’re well on your way to transform TEFL into a lifelong passion.

How can the TEFL Institute help me with the legalisation process?

The TEFL Institute is a training centre approved and accredited by TQUK. As this is a UK-based accrediting body, your documents must be stamped and certified in the UK. We are based in Ireland, so we can carry out any legalisation or notary public procedure for you and post it to you worldwide. We can do this if your employer or visa-issuing embassy wants a standard notary public stamp only. If they’re asked for an Apostille stamp on your documents, get in touch with us and we can help get your documents legalised to the exact standard required.

We hope this clears up any questions you have on the legalisation/notarisation process. Remember, we’re here if you need any further assistance. 99% of the time you don´t need to travel to an embassy or solicitor’s office – we can do it for you! Other companies we recommend for legalisation services are Vanner Perez Notaries and Apostille & Legalisation Services.

Final top tips
  • Be sure to start the process in good time. Give yourself at least six weeks to prepare, post and wait for the return of your legalised documents.
  • Photocopies of your documents will NOT be accepted – you must send the original versions. Photocopies are not accepted as official, and you will lose the money you’ve spent to have them legalised.
  • Legalising your documents costs money, so plan ahead. Another upfront cost to add to your TEFL investment can be frustrating but trust us, it will be worth it. We recommend putting aside up to €300 for these costs. This can change in accordance with the Hague apostille. And the more documents you need legalising, the pricier it becomes.
  • Don’t let it worry you. TEFL legislation can seem daunting at first. Remember, we’re here to help you. We handle these requests every day. Once you’ve done this you´ll be an expert too!

Get in touch today if you need any help with your TEFL certificate legalisation.

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