CHAPTER 4

Authenticity

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended that credential evaluators check the authenticity of documents, using the procedure described below.

Build a collection of information sources

  1. Internal information management:
  • continuously collect examples of qualifications with their validity dates and security features where appropriate to use as reference material for future applications. This serves to familiarise credential evaluators with the format and content of educational documentation that can be expected from individual countries, as well as the educational terminology used;
  • collect samples of fraudulent documents as a reference for common fraudulent practices, e.g. the use of scanned signatures;
  • identify contexts where fraudulent practices may be encountered more frequently. This could also be limited to specific qualifications or institutions;
  • keep a list of common and reliable verification procedures for specific countries;
  • enable certain staff members to specialise in evaluating documents from specific geographical regions;
  • this will allow a maximum exposure to similar documents and facilitate a greater familiarisation with the form and content of those documents;
  • keep a glossary of common terms in foreign languages. Do not rely solely on translations.

For refugees/asylum seekers other procedures could be followed. Link to e-chapter about Refugees.

  1. Assessment Procedure:

First checks after submission of documents

  • submission of documents:
    • check that each document has been issued by the appropriate authority. Using Nigeria as an example, make sure the document has been issued by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) rather than a secondary school for the Nigerian West African Senior School Certificate and ensure that all the official names on the documents are correct;
    • determine which documents are required for specific countries and ask for a complete set of documents. Which documents are required depends on the country in question (e.g. academic transcripts for the US) and/or on the purpose of the evaluation (e.g. professional registration for professional recognition);
    • ask for original language documents and where necessary for certified translations;

Next: internal verification

  • all credentials should be subjected to internal verification. Therefore, check:
    • the country of origin;
    • whether the institution, the completed study programme, and the qualification are recognised and/or accredited;
    • the format of the documentation. Please note that while some countries have a (national) standard format, in others the format of documents may differ depending on the level of the qualification, the institution, or even the faculty;
    • the appearance (e.g. variety of fonts, lack of official stamps and/or signatures, misalignment, scanned signatures, informal language, spelling errors, inconsistent terminology, improbable qualification titles, inconsistent typeface elements. These can all be indications of fraud);
    • if the content of the qualification conforms to what you would expect from that country (e.g. logos, awarding bodies, dates and duration, the number of subjects studied, the grading system used, the compulsory subjects);
    • the chronology on the documentation (e.g. check that the duration of secondary school corresponds with the expected number of years, or check that the age of the person who obtained the qualification is plausible);
    • the entry requirements have been met, in terms of level and grading;
    • the identity of the applicant.

If forgery is suspected

In cases, when the internal verification turns up some irregularities and forgery may be suspected, the following steps may be necessary:

External verification

  • External verification:
    • contact the issuing institution to verify the applicant’s qualifications;
    • request applicants to have their transcripts sent directly to you by the awarding institution in a sealed envelope;
    • contact the relevant bodies/authorities in the country of origin or contact other recognition centres for their professional opinion on the documents presented in relation to authenticity;
    • submit original documents for forensic examination.

NB: Please note that it is important to get the applicant’s permission before externally verifying their document for privacy protection reasons. Please also bear in mind that some countries and some institutions may not respond to such enquiries and it is advised that this should not be interpreted to the applicant’s disadvantage.

Additional requirements

Additional requirements may be posed on the applicant by the credential evaluator, such as:

  • ask to see original documents;
  • ask for legalisation/Apostille of The Hague. Keep in mind that the legalisation seals and the Apostille do not attest to the truthfulness of the contents of the document and that documents are not verified in all countries prior to legalisation. Further be aware that the absence of legalisation is no reason to suspect fraudulent practices, and it should only be asked for in exceptional circumstances when fraud is suspected so as to avoid overly complicated and costly recognition procedures.

Generally, the most reliable form of verification is external verification at the source. The development of modern communication technologies has made this step faster and less costly. However, expertise available in the evaluator’s office is often sufficient to detect altered and fabricated documents. Additional requirements for the applicant should be set only in exceptional cases.