Frequently Asked Questions



Q1. Can a Justice of the Peace perform the functions of a Notary?

A1. No. The training and experience of a notary public is that of a senior lawyer, capable of giving opinions on matters of law. Justices of the Peace cannot do this.

Q2. Why do I have to see a notary as well as going to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get my document ready to send overseas?

A2. Most countries follow the procedures set out in the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (often called the Hague Apostille Convention). The steps are:

  • 1. Sign and complete the document in the presence of a notary.
  • 2. Present the document to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade to get an apostille, and pay the fee, presently $80 for single sheet.
  • 3. Send the finished document to the destination country.

Q3. What is an apostille?

A3. 'Apostille' is French for a 'footnote'. France co-sponsored the Hague Apostille Convention (see Q2 above), thus its terminology was adopted.

An apostille is affixed by the relevant authority in a country which has acceded to that convention, either by a rubber stamp, verified by an authorised person and sealed with an official seal, or by attaching a separate certificate.

An apostille certifies that the notary or government authority which issued the document is indeed authorised to do so. It does not bear any relation to the content of the document, and does not of itself confer any validity on it.

Q4. Do I have to pay fees to a notary for the notarial services?

A4. Yes. Notaries are highly trained professional lawyers, and they are entitled to charge fees for their professional time spent.

Q5. Are there any documents which I do not have to take to a notary before I send them overseas?

A5. Yes. Official documents such as birth, death and marriage certificates, issued by the appropriate government department, can be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade directly, without a notarial certificate, for many countries.

In order to be sure of this, it is wise to verify the requirements of the destination country first, especially if the country is not a party to the Hague Apostille Convention. In case of doubt, you need to contact either the country's nearest consulate or its embassy in Canberra. Notaries often can assist in answering these questions.