USA – Notarising documents for property and business transactions
Are there notary signing agents in Australia?
If you are signing documents for property or business transactions in the United States of America, you need to make sure that you satisfy the specific legal requirements relating to that specific state or county in the US. Generally, this will mean that you need to have the documents notarised by a notary public (or at the US Consulate).
Notaries and the act of notarising a document is a little different in the US compared to what it is in Australia and other countries. In the US, the role of a notary or a notary signing agent is equivalent to a justice of the peace or a commissioner of oaths in Australia – they are often tasked with witnessing or certifying documents to give effect to those documents for state and federal purposes, and the same would apply to personal, property and business transactions.
What happens when those documents are being signed in other countries outside of America?
Documents originating from or being signed in Australia for personal, property or business transactions in the US must be notarised by a notary public in Australia. However, unlike the relative ease of finding a notary in the US, or a justice of the peace or a commissioner of oaths in Australia, it can be more challenging to find a notary public in Australia. The US Consulate maintains a list of notaries who are registered with the Consulate – and we are also included on this list.
Even when you find one, the cost of the notary service can come as a bit of a shock to some people especially if they are used to paying or expect the same nominal fees charged by notaries in other countries. Unlike a justice of the peace, a notary public is not free. The appointment of notaries in Australia is different from other countries and this is also reflected in the notary fees.
Why are notary fees more expensive in Australia than in America or other countries?
Unlike in the US, a notary public in Australia MUST be a practising lawyer first – and a senior lawyer at that. After having completed a specific number of years in practice, a lawyer can train to obtain further qualifications to be appointed as a notary public. In some states, this may also involve formal legal training. The notary fee is reflective of the profession and the cost of legal services in general. It also represents a very different role to the honorary appointment undertaken by a justice of the peace.
Do I need an apostille?
Documents that have been notarised in Australia sometimes need to be stamped with an apostille or legalised by the foreign office of the intended destination country before they will be accepted in that country. If the intended destination country is a member of the Apostille Convention, as Australia and the US are, then generally documents intended for that country must be stamped with an apostille.
Not all documents going to the US must be stamped with an apostille. As a general rule, any document intended to be submitted to the federal government (ie, IRS) will need to be stamped with an apostille after it has been notarised. Otherwise, different states and counties around the country often have a requirement that, especially in their property transactions, documents that have been signed overseas must be notarised and stamped with an apostille.
If in doubt, always check with whoever you are sending your documents to. Alternatively, you can always arrange to have your documents notarised first (as this is generally always the first step), scan your notarised documents and send them to whoever you are dealing with in the US and ask them for further direction as to whether those notarised documents must also be stamped with an apostille.
Where can I find a notary public who can notarise documents for the US?
Many clients mistakenly expect that they would need a “US Notary” to assist them with documents intended to be sent to America This is unlikely to be the requirement and perhaps more the result of miscommunication. In the context, a “US Notary” would be a notary public who is qualified/appointed and potentially physically present within America – they would not be in Australia and even if they were they would unlikely have any authority or right to act outside of their appointed jurisdiction.
If you have documents in Australia that you need to sign or certify for use in America, then you must obtain the services of a notary public in Australia (presumably appointed under the various laws of each state that deal with the appointment of notaries) and not a “US Notary”. The US Consulate provides a list of recognised notary publics across Australia through its consular services section. We are proudly listed with the US Consulate and because of this association, we often provide notary public services to US citizens as well as anyone who has property or business transactions in America.
Do you have any questions regarding this article?
Whether you're notarising a document for the first time or the hundreth time, the requirements, processes, and terms can be confusing and daunting - or just a pain and a hassle (especially if you need an apostille, or to authenticate or legalise as well). Don't worry! We're here to simplify it, explain it, and help you with what you need to achieve it.
Contact us or visit our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about our notary public services. We've also created a flowchart to help explain notarisation, apostille, authentication and legalisation.
So, what's next?
Why choose Phang Legal for your notary public services?
We're a leading provider of notary public services in Sydney 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. With our offices 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.
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.