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Can I Notarize a Document Bound for a Foreign Country?


From time to time, notaries public may be asked to notarize a document that will be sent overseas. This type of request is common with foreign adoptions and foreign real estate transactions. You can notarize any instrument of writing as long as the transaction isn't obviously fraudulent and the appropriate notarial certificate is specified. However, there are some things you should know and do when notarizing documents headed overseas:

1- If possible, use a notary embossing seal.

If allowed by your state’s notary laws, you should use an embossing seal when notarizing a document intended to be used abroad. The embosser is a universally recognized symbol of notarial authority. In most countries outside the United States, embossers are used almost exclusively. For this reason, foreign courts or adoption agencies may want to see a raised seal. While each state sets its own requirements and restrictions on the use of an embosser, the AAN strongly encourages notaries public to use notary embossers in states where such use is permitted.

2- Familiarize yourself with apostilles and certifications.

Because customers may ask, you should also be familiar with apostilles and certifications. Documents intended to be used outside the United States often require an apostille or certification. An apostille is a certificate given by the commissioning authority that basically certifies that the notary was authorized to act at the time the document was notarized. The notarized document is submitted to the commissioning authority, usually with some sort of minimal fee, and the commissioning authority issues an apostille or other form of authentication depending upon the country where the document is intended to be used.

As a notary, you are not responsible for obtaining an apostille or other authentication. Instead, you should simply notarize the document according to your state laws as with any other routine notarization. You may, as a courtesy, provide your client with the address and/or application form for having the document apostilled. However, it is the responsibility of the client, and not the notary, to obtain such authentication, and the notary has no way of providing that authentication for the client.

The office responsible for issuing these apostilles varies by state. You should consult with your own state laws and commissioning authority to ascertain the exact procedures for document authentication so that you can provide this information to your clients upon their request.

However, it is a general rule of thumb that secretaries of state will not authenticate documents that were not notarized in compliance with state law. This means that if your state has a required form of notarial certificate, the proper certificate needs to appear on the document. Remember, you can still notarize a document written in a foreign language provided the signer understands the document and your notarial certificate is written in English. Secretaries of state will not issue an apostille for a notarial certificate written in a foreign language.

3- Comply with all applicable notary laws.

Of course, as when performing a standard notarization, you must comply with all applicable notary laws. If your state requires a notary rubber stamp seal, the notary stamp must be used; notary  journal entries should be completed as per state notary law; and utmost care should be taken to ensure that the document will not be rejected as the result of your faulty notarization.

As always, the laws governing notaries public vary between states. Consult your state laws or commissioning authority for more information on notarizing documents destined for a foreign count

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss, or consequential loss, out of or in connection with the use of the information contained on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.

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