Cloud ahead for legalisation?

Andrew Hamilton, of the FCO Legalisation Office, had his head in The Cloud as he outlined radical suggestions for a less bureaucratic legalisation model.

Using modern cloud computing to modernise the legalisation process will save consuls time and allow customers to legalise documents more quickly and cheaply, Hamilton suggested to consuls.

Cloud-based signature database
A secure, centrally-maintained database with the signatures of all officials working in legalisation offices globally and accessible only to authorised officials would shorten time-consuming legalisation chains.

Legalisation officers would be able to log in and add signees for their countries, which colleagues in the receiving state could access and check. There would be high security protocols to prevent unauthorised people from accessing the system and adding fake signatures.

For countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention this would make the process almost as seamless as attaching an apostille to the document and would liberate consuls from time-consuming legalisation.

Hamilton added that for countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention, a centralised cloud-based database could also include the basic details of apostilles issued, allowing legalisation officers to be confident that the document issued is genuine.

Changes to FCO legalisation
Hamilton announced that from the first quarter of next year, the FCO would be moving to an online application process.

Customers will still have to send the document with a one-page confirmation but the majority of the information will be inputted on the platform.

The new system will enable regular customers to set up user accounts and store their details, track applications and view previous applications.

The new application process will guide the inexperienced through the system and will be integrated into the design to minimise errors (of the 500,000 applications, currently 5% of are rejected). A customer will not be able to complete the process until they have completed every stage of the application.

When the system is about to go live, a formal note will be sent to all consulates about the changes. Hamilton requested that consuls pass the information to their customers.

Over the next few months the Legalisation Office will be trialling various versions of the new application system on customers and Hamilton said he would welcome input from consuls and the citizens they assist.

He is particularly interested in hearing from citizens who have minimal or no computer skills so that the system can be designed to meet all needs.

Andrew Hamilton