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Notarizing Documents From Other Countries

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Updated 3-20-18. Documents being sent outside the U.S. or coming from another country can be tricky to notarize. Notarizations in foreign countries can be very different from those permitted in the United States. Here are answers to several general questions surrounding international notarizations that often come up.

Is The Notarization Permitted?
 

Notaries in most countries perform very different duties compared to their counterparts in the United States. Foreign Notaries are charged with duties similar to attorneys, as they advise and prepare documents for clients. However, in the U.S., Notaries have more limited authority, and may not advise or prepare documents for clients.

The confusion occurs when people from other countries ask U.S. Notaries to perform official acts that are not permitted under state law. One common example is when a Notary is asked to certify that a foreign citizen residing in the U.S. is still alive in order to collect an overseas pension. Most states do not authorize Notaries to certify these “proof of life" certificates. This often confuses signers who have been directed by foreign government agencies to take their life certificate to a U.S. Notary.

If you are asked to perform an unfamiliar notarization on an international document, find out first if your state permits it. You can contact your state Notary regulating agency. Members also can contact the NNA Hotline.

What If The Document Is In A Foreign Language?
 

International transactions often involve documents drafted in a language you can't read. Is this a deal breaker?

As a general rule in most states, you may notarize a document written in a foreign language as long as the notarial certificate is in English or a language you can read. You’ll need to check your state’s laws and guidelines for specific guidance. That said, it’s safer and generally more advisable to refer the signer to a Notary who can read the foreign language.

It's also a recommended practice to have a signer sign the document using characters or an alphabet you can read and understand, since the signed name could be different than what you are told.

Do Notaries Issue ‘Apostilles’?
 

If you’ve ever been asked to notarize a document sent to another country, your signer also may have asked you about getting an apostille to authenticate this document.

An apostille is a certificate authenticating the signature and seal of the officer performing the notarization on a document being sent between countries that have signed The Hague Convention.

Basically, an apostille confirms to the document’s recipient that the individual who notarized the document had a valid commission at the time the document was notarized. Without an apostille attached, a document sent between countries must go through a much lengthier authentication process by several different agencies in order to be accepted.

Many people mistakenly believe that apostilles are issued directly by Notaries. Only an authorized authority under The Hague Convention — typically the Secretary of State’s office or other Notary-regulating agency — is authorized to issue apostilles. If a signer asks for an apostille, they will have to submit the document to the appropriate authority, which will typically process and attach an apostille to the notarized document for a fee.

Are There Any Other Alternatives?
 

If it turns out you can’t notarize an international document, the signer may have other options. Embassy and consular staff are authorized to notarize documents being sent to their home countries. If a foreign country requests a notarial act for a signer’s document that a U.S. Notary isn’t authorized to perform, the signer can contact that country’s local consulate or embassy for assistance.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

​Additional Resources:

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78 Comments

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awjnotary@hotmail.com

08 Jul 2015

I have been asked to notarize docs for retirement plans to prove the recipient is still alive within the US. What is the difference?

National Notary Association

08 Jul 2015

Hello. Just to clarify, while you may notarize the signature of a person on a written statement or declaration, U.S. Notaries are not authorized to certify whether or not an individual is alive. If someone has approached you with a document that asks you to certify they are alive, you will need to refer them to a consulate or embassy of the country making the request for assistance.

Binod

10 Jul 2015

If some one ask to notarize for "to whom it may concern" for the affidavit support can be noterisze as jurat.

Alan

11 Jul 2015

I understand that I cannot certify that a certain person is alive on my own but if "john e doe" is signing a document where "john e doe" is swearing or affirming that "john e doe" is alive and I am notarizing "john e doe" 's signature and of course my client must be alive to sign, in a round about way am I not saying that "john e doe" IS alive as I notarized his signature on a document where he swore he was alive. [I am not an attorney].

National Notary Association

15 Jul 2015

Hello. As mentioned in the article, U.S. Notaries aren't authorized to certify under their own commission that a person is alive. (An example of this would be a statement you were asked to sign that reads "I, a Notary Public, certify that John Doe is alive.") A signer could ask you to notarize his signature on his own written statement as an alternative. However, it would be the signer's responsibility, not yours, to contact the receiving agency beforehand and confirm this alternative would be acceptable to whoever is receiving the document.

LeRoy E. Casey

16 Feb 2016

I've been asked to notarize several times. However, they were from domestic organizations. One that comes to mind is a labor union asking for proof of life for a 97 year old pensioner. The Jurat certificate was in order and I didn't think twice about it. Did I make an error?

National Notary Association

17 Feb 2016

Hello LeRoy. If the signer simply asked the Notary to execute a standard jurat while signing the document, there shouldn't be any issue, provided all normal state laws were followed. The problem with "proof of life" requests normally arises when the Notary is asked to certify that the signer is alive--which is something normally Notaries are not authorized to do.

Petra Jameson

18 May 2016

I am a notary in the state of Indiana but working in the state of Mississippi. Can i use my notary

National Notary Association

19 May 2016

Hello. No, Indiana Notaries cannot use their commissions outside of the state of Indiana.

April H

28 Jun 2016

I have a friend that is a united states notary in the state of TX.. She was asked to notarize a document for a US citizen whose husband is residing in Mexico. He is unable to come to the States. Can this notary notarize the signature of this woman's Mexican citizen or must a consulate do it for them?

National Notary Association

29 Jun 2016

Hello. A Texas Notary may only notarize documents within the borders of Texas.

Lisa Baldwin

20 Jul 2016

When a document comes back from another country, and their is a gold brad on the corner, are those allowed to be removed?

National Notary Association

20 Jul 2016

Hello. A Notary should not tamper with or alter the main body of a document. If there is something on the document that is preventing the Notary from affixing a seal or attaching notarial wording, the signer should be asked how to proceed.

Bryan Juarez

19 Aug 2016

If a notary notarizes a Will here in the US is it legally valid in Mexico?

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2016

Hello. We're sorry, but that's a legal question we can't answer. You would need to speak with an attorney to answer this question.

Joyce Porte

04 Sep 2016

A German national who owns property in the USA wishes to sell his property here. Documents have been drawn, but the owner cannot be present to notarize the sale document because he is too ill to travel. How can we get a notarized document from him?

National Notary Association

06 Sep 2016

Hello. If the signer requires a notarization but cannot travel the signer would need to find a Notary at his location who can notarize his signature.

Dalas P.

10 Nov 2016

I sort of understand we can not notarize foreign doc stating if the person is alive. A lady brought me a notary from Sweden to prove she is still alive to keep receiving her pension. Doc was in both languages but no notarial certificate just said date, sign and stamp, it did not say notary but institution signature. Besides the facts stated above, we would still not be able to notarize this correct?

National Notary Association

14 Nov 2016

Hi Dalas. Notaries in the U.S. do not have the authority to certify that a person is alive. However, if a person brings you a document and requests to acknowledge their signature, or the person wishes to sign a written statement in your presence and take an oath or affirmation that the statement is true, you may do so provided all requirements of your state's Notary laws are met. You are correct that you cannot simply "sign and stamp" a document as a Notary if the document has no notarial certificate wording.

Karoly Pek

14 Jan 2017

A Corrective Warranty Deed, In Broward Country, Fl., requires a not notarized signatures of my two sons. They are living in Canada. Can a Canadian Notary Public notarize their signature?

National Notary Association

17 Jan 2017

Hello. You would need to contact the agency or recording office that will receive the deed to find out if they will accept a Canadian notarization.

Barbara Hayes

27 Mar 2017

I'm a notary here in the US, but I'm planning on moving to the UK. Would my notary still be valid?

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2017

Hello. No, you would have to resign your Notary commission when you move.

Kelly

04 May 2017

what language do we use if sending a deed to Dubai for them to sign there. Instead of State of ......... and County of ........what do we put there for the notary in that country?

National Notary Association

04 May 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't provide legal advice regarding the preparation of a document being sent to a foreign country. You would need to contact an attorney familiar with that country's laws for assistance.

Merlyn V.

29 May 2017

Can I notarize a letter going to Ecuador, I am commissioned in the state of New York.

National Notary Association

30 May 2017

Hello. Yes, provided that the notarial act being requested meets all requirements of New York state law.

Merlyn V.

30 May 2017

Can I notarize a letter going to Ecuador, I am commissioned in the state of New York.

National Notary Association

31 May 2017

Hello. Yes, provided the notarial act being requested is authorized in New York and meets all the requirements of your state's laws.

Vera P.

06 Jul 2017

In addition to the Notary verifying that the person is who he says he is, can an extra notarial paragraph be added to a document stating that the signer acknowledges to the Notary that he has read and fully understands the contents of the document? And can that document including both acknowledgments be sent to have an Apostille seal affixed to the document? Specifically, this pertains to a Power of Attorney from a U.S. citizen giving power of attorney to someone living in Serbia.

National Notary Association

07 Jul 2017

Hello. Can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Mayona

05 Oct 2017

Can you please advice me if they allow to Notarize my Court Documents from other country. i need to notarized by Secretary of State,1st i been through notarized and certified from local Notarized of notarian in the bank, 2nd i been through notarized by our County clerk of the state, so 3rd is it allow to notarized by Secretary of the state?

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2017

Hello. We apologize, but we are not clear from your question what type of service you need. The Secretary of State's office does not notarize documents, but can authenticate a notarization if the Notary was commissioned in that state. We would recommend you contact the Secretary of State's office directly to ask if they can assist you.

Job van Zuijlen

13 Oct 2017

I live in the US (Virginia) and am one of those in need of a notary stamp and signature on a life certificate document. I get a pension from the Netherlands, but since I am no longer a Dutch citizen (I became a US citizen in 2005), I have a problem. The Dutch embassy will only assist Dutch citizens, so that is not an option. The form states a notary public as one of the acceptable authorities, so I wonder what I could ask a notary public without them feeling uncomfortable. This has been an ongoing hassle for the last couple of years.

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2017

Hello. If the document simply requires your signature to be notarized with a standard notarial act such as an acknowledgment or jurat, a Virginia Notary can notarize your signature normally.

Jm

16 Nov 2017

Me and my husband is in the process of adoption. My husband is planning to adopt my son and the bio dad who resides in the Philippines is willimg to relinquish his rights. My question is, since the documents for reliquishing his right is coming from Philippines, does the notarized document valid here in US? The notary public is from Quezon City Hall, since bio dad can’t go to US consulate for notarization Hope to hear from you!

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but that's a legal question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Lynda

02 Dec 2017

Can a Canadian selling land in the US sign a US document Can a Canadian go to the stateside to have a US document notarized in the USA without going to the US Embassy? The document is not entering into Canada or dimes that matter?

Lynda

04 Dec 2017

Hello. There is nothing preventing a Canadian citizen from requesting a notarial act from a U.S. Notary, provided the notarization requested meets all requirements regarding personal appearance, identification, etc. in the Notary's jurisdiction. However, any questions regarding whether a U.S. notarization is acceptable for a land transaction in Canada would need to be directed to an attorney or other qualified professional authorized to give advice on Canadian real estate law.

Arati

02 Dec 2017

Can I as authorized Notary in USA sign notarize a property sale deed for property in foreign country? This is a new document that the individual will be sending to foreign country to be executed there.

National Notary Association

04 Dec 2017

Hello. It would depend on the notarial act being requested. You may perform a notarization as long as the notarial act requested meets all requirements of your state's laws. Be aware that Notaries in other countries are sometimes authorized to perform acts that U.S. Notaries are not permitted to perform. If the notarization requested is not authorized by your state's law, you cannot notarize the document. Also, you may not advise the signer whether or not this notarization will be accepted by the receiving agency-the signer must contact the receiving agency to find out whether the notarized document will be acceptable to them.

shie

08 Dec 2017

Hi.. My child's (minor) US passport will be expired this Dec 17. One of the requirements to renew/reapply is parental consent (both parents). The problem is, my husband is in Canada right now since he is a merchant marine, and we live here in the US.. Will he be able to have the consent notarized there?

National Notary Association

11 Dec 2017

Hello. One option may be for your husband to request a notarization at a U.S. consulate or embassy. You may wish to contact a consulate or embassy in his area to find out if notarization services for U.S. citizens are available.

Elsa

19 Feb 2018

Got my birth certificate from El Paso Texas needs a stamp where do I go? I was born in Mexico but am a permanent resident in California since 1957

National Notary Association

20 Feb 2018

Hello. California Notaries may not certify copies of birth certificates. If you need a certified copy of your birth certificate, you need to contact the recording office that issued the original to request a copy.

LAURENCE RAYBOIS

02 Apr 2018

If I may say so, and at the risk of offending the author of this article, I find the advice to refer the requester to a Notary who understands the language in which the document is written somewhat disingenuous. I am a Notary, practicing in Washington State, where I am allowed to notarize all foreign language documents; whether I understand the language or not. And I do. I am also a French person having lived in the US for thirty years, and for most of my life here have found myself, about once a year, needing to have a French language document notarized, and each time needing to go through great lengths to get that done (several days of searching and extensive travel); even though I live in a major US city. In large part, I became a notary to help others in my case. I would like to respectfully request that any discussion about notarizing foreign language documents sensitize the notary community to this problem; and encourage those in a state that allows it to get a little bit out of their comfort zone and do it. I have been rejected many times by notaries who could have, but chose not to notarize my French language documents; with the most common reason given to me that they felt "uncomfortable" doing so. That included the Notary at city hall; a person financed in part by my tax money; and from whom I could have reasonably expected a higher level of commitment to serving the community.

Marriah

14 May 2018

I have a friend that needs a Brazilian birth certificate notarized, do I tell him to go to the Brazil embassy?

National Notary Association

15 May 2018

Hello Marriah. Different states have different rules regarding certifying copies of documents. To help us answer your question can you please tell us what state you are located in?

Marriah

15 May 2018

Yes I’m in California

National Notary Association

15 May 2018

Thanks, Marriah. California Notaries may not certify copies of birth certificates. Your friend would probably need to contact a Brazilian consulate or embassy for assistance.

Laura

15 May 2018

I moved to Mexico City for a couple of months. I am a notary in the State of North Carolina. Since a friend found out I was moving to Mexico city she asked if I could notarize a letter from her husband who lives in Mexico giving her the right to their home so she can be able to put home owner insurance on their property. Is that something I can do? and that will be valid in the state of North Carolina?

National Notary Association

16 May 2018

Hello. No, North Carolina Notaries may not notarize documents outside their own state.

Melody

24 May 2018

Can a TX state notary notarize a U.S. document that is out of country via webcam provided identification has been confirmed?

National Notary Association

24 May 2018

Hello. A new Texas law authorizing remote online notarizations takes effect July 1, 2018. Please see here for additional information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2017/06/two-states-approve-webcam-notarization#Texas

Sam

29 May 2018

Hi. I am certified Notary in MI. I am planning on travelling to the Middle East . How can I use my credentials overthere? Do I need to fillfill out any application before travelling ?

National Notary Association

29 May 2018

Hello. You may not use your Michigan commission to notarize documents in a foreign country. Certain individuals may hold special commissions from the federal government to notarize overseas. Some serving U.S. military personnel are authorized to notarize for military members and their families on U.S. bases in other countries. Also, officers of the foreign service of the United States, and consular agents at U.S. embassies and consulates, are authorized under federal law to notarize documents abroad. However, these specialized commissions are not available to Notaries commissioned by U.S. states and jurisdictions.

SoDavi

29 May 2018

I have a question: This article talks about notarizing overseas. What about notarizing in neighboring countries, like Canada or Cuba?

National Notary Association

29 May 2018

Hello. To help us answer your question what state are you commissioned in?

JeniC

11 Jun 2018

I am requested to notarize certify the document is original for corporation purpose. The document is from other country but written in English. May I notarize it? If yes, what kind of form should I use? Or can I notarize it on the original directly? I'm in the state of California.

National Notary Association

13 Jun 2018

Hi Jeni. We need to know a few more details about the notarization request in order to answer your question. If you can please call our Hotline team at 1-888-876-6827, one of our counselors can assist you.

Carolyn McIntosh

11 Jul 2018

Can I as a Notary of California, sign a passport application from Canada...Do I use an acknowledgement or jurat or is that decided by the country? The country says all I need to do is sign my name and write my number down along with expiration date. I am not comfortable with that...All I would be signing for is that I have known the individual for more than two years.

National Notary Association

11 Jul 2018

Hello. No, Notaries in California are not authorized as part of their official duties to sign a document to certify that they know an individual.

Monica Castilo

12 Jul 2018

I work in the lending industry in California. I have a client who is traveling out of the country to Mexico in the next few weeks. Client will need to sign US loan documents in Mexico. Is this something that can be done?

National Notary Association

13 Jul 2018

Hi Monica. We're sorry, but we're not clear from your comment what your question is regarding notarization of the documents. Can you clarify, please?

LANH TRAN-TU

28 Sep 2018

I would like to find a US notary that would travel to Vietnam, for family deeds of transfer of assets (English).

National Notary Association

28 Sep 2018

Hello. Certain individuals may hold special commissions from the federal government to notarize overseas. Some serving U.S. military personnel are authorized to notarize for military members and their families on U.S. bases in other countries. With the exceptions of the special commissions and situations listed above, Notaries commissioned by a U.S. state are not able to use their Notary commission overseas.However, you may wish to contact a U.S. consulate or embassy in Vietnam to ask if a consular officer there would be able to notarize the documents in question.

Baris

17 Nov 2018

Can an affidavit of identity be notarized in another country and be used in the US? Middle name was incorrect on a doc.

National Notary Association

19 Nov 2018

Hello. You would need to contact the agency the document is being submitted to in order to ask if they will accept it.

Mavis Gore

30 Jan 2019

Iam a ya citizen and I acquired a stand to build a house in Zimbabwe.The local authority is in need of an a power of attorney so that my brother will act on my behalf for me to get the necessary papers.How do I get this done here

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2019

Hello. We're sorry, but that is a legal question that would need to be answered by an attorney familiar with Zimbabwe laws.

Elle

19 Feb 2019

Hi I'm commissioned in NY. My boss asked me to notarize an acknowledgement document for a recertification here in NY but he is out of the country. Is it okay that I notarized the signed document he sent to me via email?

National Notary Association

20 Feb 2019

Hello. No, personal appearance by the signer is required for an acknowledgment. Please see the following court opinions: “The court again wishes to express its condemnation of the acts of notaries taking acknowledgments or affidavits without the presence of the party whose acknowledgment is taken for the affiant, and that it will treat serious professional misconduct the act of any notary thus violating his official duty.” (Matter of Napolis, 169 App. Div. 469, 472.) “Upon the faith of these acknowledgments rests the title of real property, and the only security to such titles is the fidelity with which notaries and commissioners of deeds perform their duty in requiring the appearance of parties to such instruments before them and always refusing to execute a certificate unless the parties are actually known to them or the identity of the parties executing the instruments is satisfactorily proved.” (Matter of Gottheim, 153 App. Div. 779, 782.)

Judy

23 Feb 2019

I am a Colorado notary. I have a friend, from Colorado, that is in Mexico for an extended time. They need some Colorado generated papers notarized for a refinance on a Colorado Property. I am going to visit him in Mexico in a couple weeks. Can I notarize those papers while i am with him in Mexico?

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2019

Hello. No, Colorado Notaries may only notarize within the borders of their own state.

Tim Morgan

09 Apr 2019

I am a CA notary. I have been asked to certify a copy of a CA resident's US passport. She has been asked to provide this to a Canadian lawfirm handling the settlement of her late mother's estate (her mother was Canadian). This requirement is necessary to comply with anti money statutes. I know I cannot certify a copy of a passport. My limited research suggests the US State Department does not certify copies of passports, but does certify certain passport records. I have suggested that the requester ask the Canadian lawyers if they will accept the CA resident's affidavit that an attached copy of her passport is a true copy. I could then have her sign and swear to the truth of the affidavit and provide a jurat. I don't know whether there is a prohibition against photocopying a US passport for this purpose. Is there anything different you would suggest?

National Notary Association

09 Apr 2019

Hello. We're sorry, but please remember a nonattorney Notary is not supposed to give legal advice to a signer. The signer should contact the lawfirm and ask them what alternatives they would accept to a certified copy.

Will

17 Apr 2019

Hi, I am a resident of MS working on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico, flying under the Panamanian flag. The captain of the vessel is a notary under Panama. I need to have a divorce agreement notarized. Will the Captain's notary be sufficient?

National Notary Association

17 Apr 2019

Hello. You would need to contact an attorney to find out if the notarization is acceptable for your document or not.

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