This detailed informational article explains everything you need to know about how to authenticate documents and certificates in Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education as required. It explains the official and unofficial procedures to authenticate / legalize your documents at the Foreign Affairs Ministry (which is the equivalent of Apostille Stamp certification in Nigeria). Note: If you are based outside Abuja and you need a trusted party to help you facilitate your document authentication and send the document back to your location, you can jump to the optional document authentication service section of this article.
The Essence of Document Authentication (Why it is Required)
Authentication and legalization of documents is often a necessity for Nigerians travelling abroad to study, settle down, do business, or undertake any transaction that may require their Nigeria-issued documents and certificates such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, WAEC and degree certificates, transcripts, police character certificate, bank statement for visa applications, and other documents.
Most consulates, high commissions, and embassies will require you to authenticate such documents and certificates at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.
In countries that are members of the Hague Apostille Convention, documents are legalized with an ‘Apostille Stamp’ by the Department of State or Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the case may be. Getting the Apostille Stamp on your document essentially means to certify or authenticate the document – affirming the document’s authenticity and validity for international use. Nigeria is not a member country of the Hague Apostille Convention, so Apostille Stamp is not issued in Nigeria.
The equivalent of Apostille Stamp in Nigeria is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs authentication (also known as legalization) of documents. It is the same thing as the Apostille Stamp, and it certifies the authenticity of your documents and makes your documents valid internationally.
In order to use public documents (issued in Nigeria) outside the country, such documents must be certified and authenticated by the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The authentication stamp and signatures appended on your document by Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry lends international legitimacy to that document and certifies that it is authentic and was duly issued by the appropriate authority as claimed.
This is why you need to know how to authenticate documents and certificates at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria – specifically the procedures and other important details involved in the process.
Depending on your individual circumstances and objectives, some of the documents you may need to authenticate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in furtherance of your visa application include: Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Divorce Decree, Bank Statement, Power of Attorney, Single Status Affidavit, International Passport Data Page, Declaration of Assets and Income, Sponsorship Letter, Authorization Letter, Police Character Certificate, and Academic Credentials and certifications (WAEC, NECO, Degree, Diploma, Transcripts, etc.). The documents you need to authenticate depend on the country you intend to use the document and what the relevant embassy or receiving authority stipulates.
How to Authenticate Documents and Certificates at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Official Procedure
Document authentication at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja may seem fairly straightforward on paper, but as with all things that involve the government bureaucracy in Nigeria, artificial bottlenecks characterize the process. This makes it somewhat complicated and frustrating.
Depending on the document or certificate you want to authenticate and the country’s embassy you’re presenting the document to, the first step is to contact a certified Notary Public to notarize the document for you. This role is typically played by lawyers, and you should contact a lawyer to inquire about this. The cost of notarizing the document is not fixed, as it varies significantly depending on the Notary Public in question and on your bargaining power.
After the document has been notarised by the Notary Public, the second step is to take the document with you to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the actual authentication process takes place, with the appending of an Apostille Stamp on the document.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ask for assigned officers of the Legal Services Division (LSD), to whom you should directly submit the documents – usually between the hours of 9.am to 12 noon on Mondays to Thursdays.
However, to the best of my knowledge, the notarisation requirement is only applicable when you’re presenting the document(s) to the Chinese Embassy. In other words, if you’re authenticating the document for use in China, then it is compulsory to notarise it before taking it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for authentication.
However, if you’re presenting the document to other countries’ embassies, it may not be necessary to notarise the document (unless explicitly stated by the particular embassy as a requirement). Simply take the document to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for legalization and authentication.
If you’re authenticating an academic certificate such as WAEC or NECO certificates, then it is necessary to first authenticate it at the Ministry of Education BEFORE proceeding to the Ministry of Foreign affairs for authentication.
Which Copy Should be Authenticated – Original Document or Photocopy?
A lot of people have asked whether the original copy or the photocopy of a document should be authenticated. The answer to this question is that it depends on the embassy or country you’re going to with the documents. Some embassies/countries insist on authenticating the original, but most indeed accept authenticated/legalized printed copies or photocopies.
It is prudent for you to verify from the embassy or relevant body in the country you’re travelling to in order to be sure. However, from our experience, the main countries whose embassies insist on authenticating or legalizing the original copy of your documents are: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Poland, India, and Czech Republic.
The requirement to legalize the originals of your credentials, results, transcripts and other academic certificates as well as documents such as marriage certificate, divorce certificate, and Police Character Certificate are is often enforced in the above-mentioned countries’ embassies, especially if you intend to travel for your studies.
For most other countries (to the best of my knowledge), since your original documents may be too valuable to risk misplacing it when submitting it for legalization at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Education, you could simply scan the document and print it in colour on a good quality paper or make coloured photocopies of the documents for the purpose of official authentication at the ministry. Then again, this is entirely up to you, as it depends on the requirement of the embassy you’re presenting it to or the country you’re using it in.
How to Authenticate Educational Certificates and Academic Documents at the Ministry of Education
For those who are seeking to study abroad, it is compulsory to first authenticate your academic certificates and credentials (such as WAEC or NECO certificate, degree certificate and in some cases examination transcripts) at the Ministry of Education before presenting them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for authentication as described above.
Unfortunately, the process for authenticating educational certificates and other academic documents at the Ministry of Education is even more stressful and time-consuming than what you would later encounter at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
First, you have to take your academic documents to the 8th Floor of the Federal Secretariat Building in Abuja (where the Education Ministry is located), present a print out of your WAEC or NECO certificate, and obtain a form which you must fill to begin the process of authentication.
For those who want to travel to countries such as Malaysia, UAE, Poland and Czech Republic for studies, there is an extra retirement known as the Letter of Eligibility which will be issued by the Ministry of Education alongside legalization after evaluating your First School Leaving Certificate, Testimonial, and other prior academic documents. This can take a considerable amount of time to sort out.
Subsequently, you will be asked to go and make payments via REMITA in any commercial bank for each of the documents to be authenticated. The total cost would be computed to let you know exactly how much you need to pay at the bank. Being a REMITA payment, you would have to first generate a REMITA payment ID that will be used to designate your payment to the appropriate government account.
After making payment, you have to make a photocopy of your payment slip and take the original to the Revenue Office of the Ministry of Education. Afterwards, you would submit it along with your certificates and wait for instructions pertaining to when you should return for the authenticated certificate(s). Be prepared for many frustrating ‘come today, come tomorrow’ delays,, only you choose to follow the unofficial process which is discussed subsequently.
Note that the Ministry of Education only attends to issues relating to authentication of academic documents on Mondays to Thursdays, so Fridays are officially out of it.
OPTIONAL DOCUMENT AUTHENTICATION SERVICE
If you’re not based in Abuja and would like to get someone to help you authenticate your documents, we might arrange this for you, to help you save transport costs and the associated risks and logistical inconveniences.
You could email us the scanned copy of the document and then we will print it out and authenticate the copy for you, after which it will be sent to your location via courier. Alternatively, if necessary, you could send the hard copy document(s) via one of the popular transport companies or courier services to us in Abuja.
We will print out or physically receive the documents and sort out the authentication/legalization process on your behalf and then send the authenticated document back to you via courier or waybill. The whole process should take less than three days depending on the nature of the document and your location.
Considering the logistics, legwork, and effort needed to handle this task efficiently, please note this is a premium service for which a premium fee will be charged. But at least you will be sure of getting your document duly authenticated and delivered to your location with peace of mind.. Feel free to contact us if you need this service.
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