Frequently Asked Questions
What is a notary?
In Victoria, a notary is a specially qualified practising lawyer who holds a unique office of trust and fidelity within the legal system. Among other things, a notary has the internationally recognised power and authority to:
- prepare, attest and certify deeds and other documents;
- authenticate the execution of documents;
- verify copy documents;
- administer oaths and take declarations;
- provide certificates of law and
- for use outside Australia, anywhere in the world.
Why have documents notarised?
To minimise the possibility of fraud and forgery, most countries require foreign commercial and personal documents to be notarised before they can be relied upon or used within their borders.
In most cases, police officers, justices of the peace, pharmacists, lawyers and other people who are authorised to take statutory declarations or administer oaths are not qualified to witness or certify documents for use outside Australia.
What documents are commonly notarised?
Notarised documents for use outside Australia include:
- powers of attorney granted by people and companies;
- intellectual property documents;
- inheritance documents, such as probate parchments;
- travel authorisations for children;
- contracts and other documents relating to the sale, purchase or mortgaging of overseas property;
- copies of personal documents such as passports, degrees, diplomas, references, birth certificates and other civil status documents;
- affidavits and declarations;
- commercial and investment documents;
- certificates of “good standing” of companies; and
- resolutions and other company documents.
How do you prove your identity ?
The high level of trustworthiness conferred on notarised documents is based upon verification by notaries of signers’ identities as well as their understanding of the documents they are signing.
Unless they are personally known to the notary, signers must satisfactorily be identified by the production of, at least, a current passport and some other document issued by a government department or agency which includes a photograph and/or a specimen signature.
Are there special requirements for company documents?
If company documents are being notarised, proof of the signer’s status within the company and authority to sign is usually required as well as proof of the company’s existence.
It will often also be necessary for the notary to ascertain that appropriate corporate governance procedures have been followed to authorise the preparation and execution of the documents concerned.
How are notarised documents legalised?
In addition to requiring documents to be notarised, most countries also require the notary’s signature and seal to be formally verified before a notarised document may be used or relied upon.
Some countries require an internationally recognised certificate called an Apostille (pronounced “apostee”) to be affixed to a notarised document by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (“DFAT”).
Other countries require DFAT to affix an Authentication Certificate to the notarised document, which is then “legalised” by being signed and stamped by one of the receiving country’s consular officers.
Not all countries have consulates in Victoria. Up-to-date consular information may be found at <www.dfat.gov.au> (Search for “Foreign Embassies and Consulates in Australia”).
Consulates charge fees for “legalisation” services. Fees range from a few dollars to substantial amounts.
DFAT charges fees fixed by the Australian government. There are no concessional discounts.
In Victoria, Apostilles and Authentication Certificates are affixed by DFAT at the Authentications Section of the Melbourne Passport Office located at Level 2, 747 Collins Street, Docklands. (Not far from Southern Cross/Spencer Street Railway Station and near tram stop D15). Office hours are from 8.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. on normal business days.
Notarised documents may be lodged with DFAT by mail or in person by appointment (Telephone 1300 925 260 for an appointment).
Information about lodging documents by mail or in person may be found online at <www.smartraveller.gov.au/services/legalising-documents>
How are notarial fees fixed?
The Council of the Society of Notaries of Victoria publishes a scale of fees “by way of benchmark information for members and the public”. Notaries are free to set their own fees.
Fees reflect the time taken to prepare documents and certificates and the skill and responsibility involved in particular tasks.
Fee estimates given by telephone or email are not formal quotations and are given subject to actually seeing the documents to be notarised.
In addition to notarial fees, other fees may be charged if we are asked to arrange the verification of a the notary’s signature and seal by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and/or by consulates for countries such as the PRC, which are not subject to the Hague Apostille Convention.