5 minutes

Notarisation of Documents in Singapore: Understanding the Differences between Notarisation, Apostille and Legalisation

In our modern interconnected society, the importance of document authentication has grown significantly. Whether for personal or business purposes, understanding the processes of notarisation, apostille, and legalisation is essential to navigate the complexities of cross-border transactions and legal proceedings.


Notarisation, performed by a notary public, verifies document authenticity, including contracts, affidavits, and powers of attorney. Notaries play a crucial role in confirming identities, witnessing signatures, and preventing fraud. This process involves verifying identities, administering oaths, and certifying documents with an official seal. They ensure signatures are genuine and may assist in preparing affidavits and declarations, certifying their authenticity. 

In terms of processing time, notarisation in Singapore is typically swift and efficient. While exact timelines may vary depending on factors such as document complexity and the notary public’s availability, most notarial services are completed within a few business days. However, some requests or intricate documents may require additional time for thorough review and verification to ensure accuracy and compliance with legal standards. 


The apostille, stemming from the Hague Apostille Convention of 1961, simplifies document authentication for international use. It’s affixed to public documents like birth certificates and court judgments, certifying their authenticity without extra steps. This convention establishes uniform rules for apostille recognition among member countries, expediting cross-border document verification and promoting global cooperation. 

Apostilles are only issued by countries party to the Hague Apostille Convention, ensuring consistency in format and content. They include details like the issuing authority’s name and the designated officer’s signature. Certain documents, such as those for customs or commercial transactions, may not qualify for apostille certification. 

The processing time for obtaining an apostille may vary depending on the issuing authority and the volume of requests. Since September 2021, the Apostille Convention has been in force for Singapore and all notarised documents will also have an apostille issued by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL). 


Legalisation ensures the authenticity of documents for use in non-apostille countries by obtaining additional certifications from diplomatic or consular authorities. It’s necessary when documents are intended for use in countries not party to the Hague Apostille Convention. Each country may have unique legalisation requirements, often coordinated through embassies, consulates, or foreign affairs offices. 

This process may involve authentication by the destination country’s embassy or consulate to validate the document’s validity. Additional requirements, like translations or notarial certifications, may be imposed by certain countries. Ultimately, legalisation ensures documents comply with the legal standards of the destination country for recognition and acceptance. 

Legalisation may take longer than apostille certification, as it involves multiple steps and coordination with various governmental authorities. 

Purpose of Document Authentication 

Document authentication serves several key purposes. Firstly, it ensures the authenticity of documents, providing assurance that they are genuine and legally binding. This is crucial for maintaining trust and credibility in various transactions, such as contracts and legal agreements.  

Secondly, authentication facilitates international recognition, enabling documents to be accepted and acknowledged across borders. By adhering to authentication procedures, documents gain validity in foreign jurisdictions, promoting seamless international interactions.  

Lastly, document authentication ensures compliance with legal requirements, both domestically and internationally. Different countries and organizations may have specific authentication standards and regulations, and adhering to these requirements is essential for legal validity and recognition.  

Key Differences Between Notarisation, Apostille, and Legalisation 

Here are some key differences to facilitate understanding for each type of authentication. 

1. Legal Authority 

Notarisation involves the verification of documents by a notary public, who holds legal authority granted by the government to perform such tasks. Apostille, on the other hand, is a simplified form of legalisation established by the Hague Apostille Convention and is issued by SAL. Legalisation, however, involves obtaining additional certifications from governmental authorities, such as embassies or consulates, to authenticate documents for use in countries not party to the Hague Apostille Convention. 

2.  Applicable Documents 

Notarisation primarily applies to a wide array of documents, including contracts, affidavits, and powers of attorney. In contrast, apostille is typically affixed to public documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and court judgments, facilitating their acceptance in foreign countries. However, do note that all notarised documents in Singapore have to undergo authentication by SAL and will be deemed to be valid by the apostilled affixed to the back of the notarial certificate. 

Legalisation, on the other hand, is required for documents intended for use in countries not party to the Hague Apostille Convention, and the types of documents subject to legalisation vary depending on the destination country’s regulations. 

Common Misconceptions 

Below are some common misunderstandings about notarisation, apostille, and legalisation that need clarification. 

Equating Apostille with Legalisation 

Many individuals mistakenly believe that apostille and legalisation are interchangeable terms, leading to confusion about the document authentication process. 

While both processes involve document authentication for international use, apostille is a simplified form of legalisation specifically for countries party to the Hague Apostille Convention. It verifies the authenticity of public documents without the need for further authentication within member countries.  

In contrast, legalisation encompasses a broader process, requiring additional certifications from governmental authorities for use in non-apostille countries. Thus, assuming apostille and legalisation are synonymous disregards their distinct procedures and may lead to misunderstandings in international document processing. 

Believing Notarisation Suffices for International Use 

While notarisation adds credibility to documents, it may not always suffice for international use. International document use often requires additional steps such as apostille or legalisation, depending on the destination country’s regulations. Thus, assuming that notarisation is universally accepted for international purposes may result in documents being rejected or facing delays in their intended use abroad. 

Overlooking Specific Document Requirements 

Many individuals may assume that once a document is notarised, apostilled, or legalised, it automatically satisfies the requirements of the destination country. However, different countries have unique regulations and criteria for accepting foreign documents. Failure to adhere to these specific requirements, such as translation or additional certifications, can lead to documents being rejected or deemed invalid by the authorities of the destination country. Therefore, it’s crucial to thoroughly research and comply with the specific document requirements of the target jurisdiction to ensure smooth authentication and acceptance. 

How Premia TNC can Help 

Premia TNC offers comprehensive services to assist individuals and businesses with notarisation, apostille, and legalisation needs. With our expertise in navigating the complex procedures of document authentication, we ensure a seamless process from start to finish. Whether it’s certifying documents, obtaining apostille certificates, or coordinating legalisation with foreign embassies, Premia TNC streamlines the entire authentication process, saving time and effort for our clients. Trust Premia TNC to handle your notarisation, apostille, and legalisation requirements with professionalism and efficiency. 

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