As Notaries, we hold a public office granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. By signing and sealing a document, a Notary gives credence to that document and it will, (if the necessary formalities have been properly observed), be accepted without question in all jurisdictions around the world. The work of the Notary therefore is to deal with documents, which will be used abroad.

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If you need to sign a document or provide evidence of something which will be relied upon in an overseas country, but you sign the document outside that country, the receiving authority will require some certainty that the information contained in the document is intended and correct and that, if the document shows it was signed by a named individual, somebody with authority has confirmed that this is indeed the case. It is a Notary Public who has that public authority. Thus clients will be asked to return documents to their overseas lawyer once they have been “notarised” or “legalised”.

A Notary will deal with a number of different documents and requirements. The most common activities comprise:

  • Witnessing the signature of documents
  • Authenticating (or confirming the truth of) facts set out in a document or certifying copies of originals
  • Administering oaths and declarations

The Notary will have to satisfy himself that the client understands the nature of the document or that documents provided to him are valid. It is not a rubber stamping exercise. The Notary will formally identify the individual who has to sign, usually, by means of a passport and some other document that confirms a residential address. In the case of a document to be completed by a company, the Notary will need to satisfy himself that the individual(s) signing has(ve) the requisite power and authority to sign on behalf of that company and that the company exists.

In addition, the Notary will advise on what requirements will be necessary to ensure that the document is in an acceptable format in the receiving country. This may require a further document or a specific certificate being prepared. It may also require Legalisation.

For some countries, it is sufficient if a document simply bears the seal and signature of a Notary.

In other countries, the document will require the Notary’s signature and seal to be legalised. This process means that the document signed and sealed by the Notary is submitted to and a further certificate is affixed to the document by the state in which the Notary practices; in the UK, it is the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, which fulfils this role.

This further certificate will be a document called an “Apostille” that is attached to your document and bears the imprint of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This certificate confirms the authenticity of the Notary’s signature and seal (and therefore their qualifications). It is attached under the terms of The Hague Convention 1961. This usually takes up to 4 working days after the appointment with our Notary.

In addition to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s certificate, the Consulate or Embassy of the receiving country may also need to add its own verification. It will do this after the Foreign & Commonwealth Office have affixed their verification. If the receiving country is a signatory to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, then it will not be necessary to submit the document to the embassy of the receiving country and it will be sufficient to obtain an Apostille only. The Notary will advise on which countries need additional Legalisation. The additional timings involved will also be discussed as some Embassies take several extra days to complete their formalities. In any event, the process of legalisation will start straight after the appointment between you and the Notary.

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