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Home > Who is a prescribed witness, qualified witness or an authorised witness?

Who is a prescribed witness, qualified witness or an authorised witness?

Who can witness or certify my documents?

Sometimes referred to as a ‘prescribed witness’, ‘qualified witness’ or an ‘authorised witness’, a person who is authorised to witness signatures or certify documents can vary depending on where your documents will be used.

Where are you going to be using your documents?

If you live in New South Wales and you want to use your documents in New South Wales, then in most cases you will need to sign your documents or have them certified by a justice of the peace. You can also use a lawyer or a notary public, but unlike a justice of the peace which is a free service, it is likely that you will need to pay for using the services of a lawyer or notary public.

If you live in New South Wales, or any other state, and you want to use your documents in Australia, then there is a long list of people who can witness or certify your documents for Commonwealth purposes. By comparison, the number of people who can witness or certify your documents for use in New South Wales is limited.

If you live in Australia and you want to use your documents in another country, then you generally must have your documents notarised by a notary public. This means if your signature must be witnessed, then it must be witnessed by the notary public or if your documents must be certified, then they must be certified by the notary public.

Do your documents need to be stamped with an apostille or authenticated and legalised?

If you are sending your documents overseas and you have been asked for them to be stamped with an apostille or authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), then your documents must be notarised. DFAT does not accept documents signed by other prescribed, qualified or authorised witness.

Australian notary public services for public documents and private documents

If your documents are public documents (ie, original government documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates etc), then those documents can be stamped with an apostille or authenticated without notarisation. Otherwise, if you want to retain your original public document and you only want to send a certified copy to the intended destination country, then the certified copy of that public document must also be notarised by a notary public before it can be stamped with an apostille or authenticated for legalisation purposes.

If your documents are private documents (ie, non-government documents such as medical reports, education documents or qualifications, business or commercial documents etc), then those documents must be notarised by a notary public before they can be stamped with an apostille or authenticated. In some cases, we must also verify the authenticity of the document with whoever issued it before we can notarise that document. For example, education documents or qualifications must be verified with the relevant school, college or university before they can be notarised and before DFAT will accept them for the purpose of stamping them with an apostille or authenticated for legalisation purposes.

Who can witness my signature or certify my documents?

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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?

Visit our Notary Fees page for a free quote for our notary public services or just 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 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.

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