Local document search

We provide a chargeable service to members of the public, who are British nationals, where we approach the authorities of another country to try and obtain local documents on their behalf.

For example, if you were married in Spain and you have lost your Spanish marriage certificate, or you were born in Thailand and you have lost your Thai birth certificate, you can submit an application either through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London or your nearest British Embassy and we will approach the authorities of the country concerned on your behalf to try to obtain a copy of the marriage or birth certificate.

What sort of documents?

The documents that we can search for on an applicant’s behalf are as follows:

  • birth certificates
  • baptismal certificates
  • adoption certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • decree absolutes
  • registration/naturalisation certificates issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only*
  • death certificates
  • certificates of good conduct 

We also accept requests for the following documents, but only where the matter relates to the recent death of a British national:

  • autopsy reports
  • medical reports
  • police reports

Please note that foreign authorities may not be prepared to release these reports to us as a thrid party, and it may be better for you  to contact the relevant authority directly. Please contact the BMD enquiry line for further advice.

Fees and payment

The fee for this service is currently £121. (Please note that Consular fees are subject to change). This includes any charges made by the local authorities if these amount to less than £5.

If the costs are higher than £5, the applicant will be requested to pay the excess charges. Please note that the fee is NOT refunded if the document cannot be traced.

Payment via postal order or banker’s draft made payable to 'The Foreign & Commonwealth Office'.

Please send completed applications to:

Local Document Searches, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Rm G.38, Old Admiralty Building, London, SW1A 2PA

This service is only available to British nationals and in order to proceed with the application you will need to provide a photocopy of your current British passport along with the completed application form. We are unable to accept requests from a third party unless written permission from the party concerned is provided, or, in the case of a death, the application is made by the next of kin. If a third party makes the application they will need to provide a photocopy of the current British passport of the party concerned.

Multiple requests for certificates

 If you require additional copies of the same certificate, you need to pay one fee of £121 and the additional cost of the extra certificates once it has been obtained.

If you require different certificates you will have to pay the fee of £121 per certificate required.

For instance, if you wish to obtain two copies of your French birth certificate from the French authorities you would pay one fee of £121 and then the extra cost of the second certificate once the certificates have been obtained. If you require a copy of your French birth certificate and your French marriage certificate you will have to pay the £121 fee twice - £242.

Processing times

Our processing time here in London is 20 working days. We will send you an acknowledgement letter within 20 working days. We do not have the facility to fast-track applications.

There is no guarantee that a document can be found and we are entirely dependent on the co-operation of the local authorities. This process can take several months. If you do submit an application, you will receive an acknowledgement letter. After this letter has been received please refrain from contacting us about the progress of an application until a period of no less than 3 months has passed. We cannot speed up the process of an application and we need to allow for the period of 3 months to give the local authorities the opportunity to respond to our request.

If the document cannot be traced, a letter confirming this will be issued.

Countries excluded from our local document search.

We are unable to obtain documents from Australia and Bangladesh. This is because the local authorities view us as a third party and will only deal with the party concerned.

To obtain certificates from these countries you will need to contact the local authorities directly. Alternatively it may be worth contacting the relevant Embassy or High Commission of the country where you are trying to obtain the certificate from. They may provide a similar service.

How to apply

If you are resident in the UK, please download and complete the application form as fully as possible. If you are resident abroad, you should contact your nearest British Consulate. For a local document search to prove successful, it is necessary to have as much detail as possible about the document you are trying to trace. In some countries, an incomplete application form will be immediately returned to us. We will be unable to help unless there are specific details.

Please note that the fee is £72 for Registration/Naturalisation certificates issued by the FCO. Not £121. If a record is found, we will inform you of this and you will be requested to pay an additional £34 for a letter which confirms the details.

Certificates of good conduct

Information about how the FCO can help you obtain a certificate of good conduct from another country.

Download the form

local document search form

Useful Contacts

Consular services  -Births, marriages and deaths

bmdenquiries@fco.gov.uk

Telephone: 020 7008 0186 (Mon-Thurs: 1000-1200)