A Notary Public is a practicing attorney with an additional qualification and admitted by the High Court. The Notary Public has additional powers to be able to execute, attest to and certify specialised documents. A Notary Public has the highest level of trust and ethics in the legal profession.
The additional legal powers granted to the Notary Public allows the Notary Public to sign, certify, and authenticate documents for use internationally.
As our world has become a global village the link between countries necessitates the need for documents to be signed in South Africa and sent overseas. The signing of documents before a Notary Public or having documents notarised by a Notary Public has now become a frequent necessity.
The process whereby a Notary Public notarises a document for use overseas is known as the Authentication of documents. Documents signed in South Africa for use internationally need to be authenticated. Authentication of documents is either by way of a shorter authentication process or a longer authentication process. To determine which authentication process is required will depend on which country the documents need to be sent to.
If the country you are sending the documents to is a party to the Convention Abolishing the Requirements of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents known as The Hague Convention dated 5 October 1961 then those documents can be authenticated using the shorter authentication process.
SHORTER AUTHENTICATION PROCESS :
The shorter authentication process includes a vast number of countries who are parties to The Hague Convention. Firstly the client will take the documents to be signed before the Notary Public or provide the Notary Public with original documents to certify. The Notary Public then attaches an authentication certificate to the document and affixes the Notary’s signature, stamp and seal to the certificate.
The Authenticated documents will then be taken to the High Court in the area in which the Notary Public practices and the High court will then attach an Apostille certificate authenticating the Notary Public’s signature. The use of the Apostille certificate is thanks to The Hague Convention as all the countries party to the convention comply with authentication requirements merely by adding the Apostille certificates.
The originally signed documents together with the Notary Public’s Authentication certificate and the Apostille certificate are bound together and the complete set of documents are then legally ready for use in another country. A complete list of countries that are a party to The Hague Convention can be viewed here.
LONGER AUTHENTICATION PROCESS :
Where the documentation is for use in a country which is not party to The Hague Convention authentication of documents via the longer authentication process is required. Firstly the client will take the documents to be signed before the Notary Public or provide the Notary Public with original documents to certify. The Notary Public then attaches an authentication certificate to the document and affixes the Notary Public’s signature, stamp and seal to the certificate.
Secondly, the Notary Public will send the authenticated documents to the High Court and the High Court will add an authentication certificate to the documents.
Thirdly, the twice authenticated documents must then be sent to the Legalisation section at DIRCO (The Department of International Relations and Co-operation) in Pretoria in order for them to be legalised.
Finally the documents, once returned by DIRCO, must be sent to the embassy or consulate of the country in which they are intended for their final authentication.
Only once all the above stages are completed are the documents legally ready for use in that country.
THE EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE :
Please note that there are certain documents which, even though the Country is a party to the Hague Convention cannot be Apostilled by the High Court. These documents must be sent to DIRCO directly who in turn would legalise them.
These documents include :
- Original Unabridged or Full :
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Original (valid) Letters of no impediment regarding current marital status
- Letter confirming an individual’s citizenship (Letters confirming naturalization)
- Renunciation letters as issued, duly signed and stamped by the authorised Home Affairs Official
- Original (valid) Police Clearance Certificate as issued, signed and stamped by the South African Police Service (NB: A Police Clearance Certificate is only valid for 6 months)
- Original adoption papers signed and stamped by the relevant Presiding Officer/Commissioner of Child Welfare of the Children’s court (Department of Justice and Constitutional Development) or the Registrar of Adoptions at the Department of Social Development
- Original letters as issued, stamped and signed by the Department of Transport confirming that the Applicant holds a valid driver’s licence.
As has been advised the Authentication of documents can be a complicated process and could add unnecessary costs, and delays, if done incorrectly. In order to prevent the loss of valuable time and being charged additional unnecessary costs please contact any one of our four branches to obtain the requisite advice in respect of the appropriate procedure to follow when documents need to be authenticated.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)