Notary Public – When don’t you need notary services?

To need or not need a notary – that is the question!

It’s interesting to listen to the different enquiries that we receive every day. Some people never knew what a notary public was until they researched it on Google and found us, while others immediately think of seeing a notary public for all kinds of issues (often due to their own experiences from overseas or advice they’ve received from other people). In this article, we outline some scenarios in which you don’t need notary services to help you understand a little more of what we provide (and don’t provide) and situations in which you might be able to save a bit of money depending on your specific situation.

You generally don’t need a notary public in Australia if your documents are to be used in Australia

Normally, we only get involved if your documents originate in Australia but are intended to be used overseas or outside of Australia. For example, if you’re signing some sort of document like a power of attorney or an affidavit/declaration in Australia and you’re going to send it to India, then chances are that you’ll need to have your signature witnessed by a notary public. However, if you’re signing that same document in Australia but you’re also going to be using it in Australia, then you can use a notary public but you don’t have to use a notary public. Depending on the nature of the document, you may be able to use a justice of the peace, a solicitor or a range of other specific witnesses depending on the legal requirement (which can vary between the states and at a federal level). Sometimes, there are occasions when you’ll still need to have a notary public for documents used in Australia, but this is probably more of the exception and you should clarify those requirements before making further enquiries.

You don’t need a notary public in Australia if your documents originate from another country

There have been some issues around this in recent times where some notaries in Australia have notarised documents that have originated from other countries – not Australia. While it’s possible provided there’s ‘sufficient’ justification, it’s safe to say this isn’t good practice and has been frowned upon by various professional groups and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Documents that originate from other countries to be used in Australia or other countries should be notarised by a notary public from the country where the documents originated from. So even if you’re living in Australia, your birth certificate is from Croatia and you need to send it to the United Arab Emirates, you’re probably going to have a hard time having the document notarised in Australia and even harder time having it authenticated by DFAT or even accepted by the UAE Embassy. We know better and so unfortunately we can’t help you with this – of course, there are some notaries who might. Good luck.

You don’t need a notary public if you need to have an original certificate issued by an Australian government department authenticated or stamped with an apostille by DFAT

Simply put, in most cases, DFAT will recognise original certificates issued by other Australian government departments. Of course, this requires that you’re sending the original certificate. But if you’re only going to send a copy of the original certificate, then that copy still needs to be notarised. For example, if your child was born in Sydney and you have a birth certificate issued by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages that you want to send it to China, you can send the original certificate to DFAT and they authenticate it on the basis that it’s an original certificate. If you want to keep the original certificate, and you can send a copy, then DFAT will only authenticate the copy of the certificate if it’s been notarised by a notary public. Despite this option, some countries still require some original certificates to be notarised even if notarisation is not a specific requirement for DFAT and the reason is because that’s what they do or expect in those countries.

You don’t need a notary public if your education documents have been signed by an authorised officer of your educational institution who is also recognised by DFAT

There are authorised officers in a number of educational institutions (ie, public universities) who are recognised by DFAT as authorised officers – very similar to the way that notary publics are recognised as DFAT – for the purposes of authenticating or stamping with an apostille the education documents issued by their respective educational institutions. Again, this requires you to be sending your original education documents that have been signed by those respective authorised officers, and that can sometimes be an issue if you want to retain those original documents when in many cases you may only be issued with one original set. Accordingly, if you want to send a copy of those documents, then those documents must be notarised by a notary public. Please be aware that this only applies to a certain number of educational institutions, so if you attended a private college or some other educational institution that doesn’t have an authorised officer recognised by DFAT then you’ll still need to have your documents notarised by a notary public. The other fact is when it comes to education documents, DFAT and the various professional bodies have a very strong stance when it comes to foreign education documents. The short answer is if your education documents were issued overseas (ie, not Australia) then you should approach a notary public in that country to assist you with notarising those documents – not a notary public in Australia.

So what now?

These are only just a few examples that we come across commonly and we always encourage people to go elsewhere to find a more appropriate or cheaper solution. While some might question why we ‘turn away clients’ or ‘talk ourselves out of a job’ the reality is that it’s just the right thing to do – isn’t it? Bottom line is that most people don’t know or don’t understand because this might be the first time they’re consulting a notary public for assistance. Of course, this article is supposed to help some of those people before they take the time to call our office or turn up to an appointment only to be encouraged to go elsewhere, however, if it’s their first and likely the only time they need a notary public sometimes they don’t go to the effort to read or research (not like what you’re doing right now in reading this article). Whatever the case is, we’re here to help and sometimes the best help we can give is by ‘not helping’ at all.

Hopefully, this has clarified some questions that may have prompted you to read this far. Each person’s situation can be a little different and while there are often processes and procedures that we follow in Australia, sometimes they don’t perfectly match with what others expect overseas. In many cases, people overseas just want to see a shiny red seal or stamp and a signature. If it’s not illegal or unethical (or contrary to any of the guidelines set by DFAT, professional bodies or our own policies), then yes – we’re still happy to oblige and help you notarise your document to achieve the document’s intended purposes even if it’s not legally required by DFAT or by the foreign consulates. We get the job done!

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Do you have any questions?

Sending documents from Australia to other countries can be complicated. We make it simple.

If your documents must be stamped with an apostille or authenticated and then legalised, we can help with that too. We've also created a flowchart to explain the process.

Not sure what you need? Contact us or visit our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

So, what's next?

Visit our Notary Fees page for a free quote for our notary public services. Otherwise, call us on +61 2 9687 8885 to speak with our friendly team about your requirements.

Why choose Phang Legal for your notary public services?

We're a leading provider of notary public services in Sydney. We're known for our experience and expertise in notarising documents for other countries, our low-cost fixed fees and service offering, and our availability to help on short notice.

Our office is conveniently located in Parramatta, the geographic centre of the Sydney metropolitan area. We help clients from across Sydney and beyond with personal, professional and timely notary public services.

Ern Phang, Notary Public
Ern Phang
Notary Public

This website is maintained by Phang Legal, a boutique law firm in Parramatta and a leading provider of quality notary public services to satisfied clients across Sydney.

Ern Phang is a director of Phang Legal and a notary public (since 2005). Ern regularly writes about his experiences as a notary public and the issues faced by his clients in sending documents to other countries.

All information on this website is for general purposes only and correct at the time of publication. Only rely on information and advice that is specific to your situation and current at the time you wish to rely on it.