What are Notary Public services?
If you are planning to travel abroad for work or study purposes, you might have come across a few strange legal terms that you might not have fully understood. The information on this page will help you better understand what a Notary Public (or just Notary) is, what functions a Notary Public is responsible for, and what it means to have a document notarised for legal use abroad.
What is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is the term used for an attorney who has intimate knowledge of a set of legal facts, and the processes prescribed therein. A Notary Public is an attorney who is legally empowered to witness the signing of documents, take statements from the public, and certify that the contents of an official document are indeed true and correct.
A Notary is held to a higher standard of care than an attorney, in some respects. A Notary specialises in the drafting and legalisation of certain documents that have to be used as official documents abroad or within the Republic of South Africa. When documents have been notarised by a Notary, they are assumed to be complete and legal.
What documents can be certified or notarised by a Notary Public?
Although there are a wide variety of documents that can be notarised by a Notary Public, the most common documents that are notarised include the following, or copies thereof:
• Background Check
• Single Status Affidavit
• Power of Attorney
• Copy of Passport
• Copy of Driver’s License
• Authorisation Letter
• Travel Consent Letter
• Articles of Incorporation
• Certificate of Good Standing
• Certification of Free Sale
• Certification of Origin
• Corporate Power of Attorney
• Commercial Invoice
The following documents can be notarised as well, but this is not the normal way to do it and there are risks at play:
- Marriage Certificates (copies can be notarised as true copies of the original)
- Birth Certificates (copies can be notarised as true copies of the original)
- Death Certificates
- Letters of No Impediment / Single Status Certificates
- Divorce Certificates and Decrees of Divorce
- Police Clearance Certificates
- Powers of Attorney (when signed in person in front of the notary public)
- Educational Qualification Documents (copies can be notarised as true copies of the original)
In fact, any document can be copied and the copy thereof notarised as a true copy of the original. However, the value of such a copy may not be what one is looking for. Apostilles on many of the above, for example, require direct DIRCO apostillisation and not notarisation.
What are notarial deeds?
When documents are required to be notarised, we refer to them as notarial deeds, and it includes a Notary having to draft the document before it can be signed and witnessed in the presence of the Notary. Notarial deeds include, among other things, ante-and-postnuptial contracts, deeds of cession of usufruct, deeds of servitude, notarial leases, trust deeds of donation and notarial bonds.
Notarial deeds are kept by the Notary Public for safekeeping, and all records of these type of documents are registered in the Notary’s protocol as proof to show that the documents have indeed been drafted and attested to before him.
Aside from drafting and recording the signing of notarial deeds, a Notary Public also notes protests regarding a bill of exchange as well as a Notary Apostille and legalisation services, which might include the attestation, authentication, and notarisation of documents that are bound to be used in foreign countries.
When a Notary has legalised an official document, the document is affixed, sealed and signed by the Notary Public either with an Apostille Certificate for documents that have to be used internationally (if the destination country is a signatory of the Hague Convention), or with a Certificate of Authentication (if the destination country is not a signatory of the Hague Convention).
We can help you get copies of many of your documents notarised by a Notary Public so that they can be legally used abroad for the purpose of work or study. However, for documents such as passports, we would require the copies and the original passport, which is unfortunately not possible within our services.