News & Insights

Why do I need to use a Notary Public?

Posted on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 by

If you are intending to move overseas or do business in another country, it is very likely that you may need to use the services of Notary Public. This article explains what a Notary Public is and the types of services they offer.

What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is someone who has been given authority to witness documents, administer oaths, and perform other administrative functions of a national and international nature. Essentially, they are like an international Justice of the Peace as they work on documentation that is required for use in other countries. Their main role is to be an independent formal witness in relation to legal documentation to prevent fraud, identity theft or forgery in another jurisdiction.

Not anyone can be a Notary Public. In New South Wales, Australian notaries are appointed by the Supreme Court of New South Wales according to the Public Notaries Act, 1987 (NSW). They must be lawyers with at least 5 years legal experience and must complete a specialised notarial course as well as apply to be a Notary with the Legal Profession Admission Board. They can only provide notarial services in New South Wales, Australia. Other states of Australia have their own requirements as do other countries.

Why would I need a Notary Public?

People engage the services of a Notary Public for two main reasons:

  • Authentication of documents – Notaries can verify official, Government and personal documents to use in another country. Examples of these types of documents include driver’s licences, marriage certificates, land titles, birth certificates and wills. They can also certify the status of businesses and their transactions.
  • Witnessing – Notaries can officially witness signatures of individuals to documents and Powers of Attorney for use overseas. They can also witness documents for businesses to use in another country.

Once a document has been authenticated or witnessed, the Notary Public places a seal on the document verifying its legitimacy. Each Notary Public has their own unique seal and signature registered with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Once a document is sealed and signed it must go to DFAT so they can check that the seal and signature is genuine. This process is called ‘legalisation’. Once it is checked by DFAT, the document is ready to use overseas.

Legalisation process: Apostille or Authentication?

Each country has its own requirements regarding the legalisation of overseas documents. Some may require an Apostille whereas others may require an Authentication.

An Apostille Certificate is a short and simple form of legalisation. This can only be used for countries which are a signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. For those countries that are not a signatory, a full authentication of documentation is required. A Notary Public can help you determine which form of legalisation is required for a particular country.