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Notary Bulletin

Foreign Adoptions: A Maze Of Confusing Requirements

Adopting a child from abroad can be one of the most joyous events for a family — but it requires difficult, complex paperwork. Adoptions from foreign countries often require extensive authentication of documents, but differing conceptions of the role of Notaries from one country to another can confuse and frustrate prospective parents.

If asked to notarize a document related to a foreign adoption, the most important question to ask is whether your state’s laws allow you to perform the official act that’s being requested. The instructions on forms given to prospective parents may direct them to request an act that can be performed by a Notary in the country of adoption, but may not be an authorized act for a U.S. Notary.

For example, the African nation of Guinea requires adoptive parents from the United States to provide a notarized photocopy of their passport — but in Texas, Notaries are not authorized to certify copies of passports. Some nations ask for “notarized” copies of the prospective adoptive parents’ birth certificates, but in the United States, Notaries Public cannot certify copies of vital records. Only the recording office that issued the original birth certificate can provide a certified copy. If state law precludes a notarial act related to an adoption, the Notary cannot perform the request.

Also, many nations, such as Ecuador, will require apostilles— authentication of the Notary’s commission status from an appropriate state agency — on all of the notarized documents before accepting them. It is the responsibility of the document signer to obtain and pay for these authentications, posing yet another obstacle in a complex sea of requirements for the adoptive parents.

If you are unable to perform an adoption-related notarization, one alternative is to direct the signers to contact a consulate or embassy of the involved country to see if a consular officer may perform the act instead. The prospective parents may also wish to contact the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues for additional guidance on how to proceed if there is an issue with obtaining a notarization.

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