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Tips for notarizing international adoption documents

Notarizing international adoption paperwork

The most rewarding and challenging assignments I handle as a mobile Notary are for prospective parents involved in the process of international adoption. Rewarding because they will have a child at the end of the process, and challenging because there are some demanding considerations for Notaries that you will not learn when you get your commission.                          

Consider this: There were more than 6,400 successful international adoptions last year, according to the U.S. Department of State, with nearly a quarter of those children going to families in California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois. The lion’s share of adopted children come from China, Ethiopia, Russia and South Korea.  However, many other countries participate in adoptions to American families.

This type of assignment may not be an everyday occurrence. However, when I get one, it can involve anywhere from 40 to 90 notarizations over a three-month period, which entails travel to different locations such as doctors, employers, CPA’s and sheriff's offices as well as the client’s home.

The mountain of adoption documents

One of the first steps will be a home study or screening of the prospective parents and their home conducted by a case worker from the adoption agency. The study is notarized — usually by the agency conducting the review. Sometimes, however, a mobile Notary will be called in if the agency does not have a Notary on staff.

Then the adoptive parents build their dossier, which is the collection of documents that describes the family’s personal financial state, medical history, employment status as well as good citizenship. In essence, the dossier is how the parents make their case that they are good candidates for providing a stable home life for a child.

The mobile Notary plays an important role in this process, because there can be more than 20 different forms, statements and applications that need to be notarized — typically in triplicate — for each person.

The most common forms are:

  • Employment/Income/Asset verification,
  • Proof of life insurance and health insurance,
  • Proof of mortgage or rent payments,
  • Proof of good health,
  • Police/child abuse clearance letters,
  • Written personal references,
  • DMV record and
  • Vital records such as marriage/divorce /birth (which may require application for certified copies)

Each country has its own list of documents that need to be notarized as well.

After the adoption, there are post placement visits that can go on for years, and these reports are also notarized.

Notary requirements

A Notary needs to have a minimum of one year left on the commission in order to notarize the dossier documents. That’s because it can take many months for the officials in the other country to review the dossier. This may not be required for notarizing post placement visit reports.

Adoption agencies always ask if I have an embosser, so it’s a good idea to have one even if your state uses a photographically reproducible ink stamp. You may not be hired for international adoption assignments without it.

Strong Notary skills are a must. That means filling out the certificate correctly and knowing your state laws regarding documents going out of the country. Does your state require specific wording for notarial acts?

If you want to take on these types of assignments, it might be a good idea to brush up on your essential Notary practices.

All documentation will ultimately be reviewed by the Secretary of State or some other appropriate governing agency in your state through apostilles or another authentication process. This process certifies the Notary has a valid commission.

When it comes to international adoption documents, there is zero tolerance for mistakes. No strike-outs or overwrites will be accepted. If you make a mistake on your notarial certificate, you must start again on a clean copy. So review the documents and notarial certificates carefully.

Be careful of preprinted wording. If the certificate is preprinted on the document, read each word to assure it is correct. Missing even a small word, such as “to”, can cause it to be rejected.

These types of assignments are for Notaries who are available during 9-5 business hours. Most appointments are scheduled during the work day. The clients will use the same Notary if possible for all documents due to the authentication process which is required for every Notary used.

Getting Notary assignments for adoptions

Getting these types of assignments can happen in various ways.  There are blogs, websites and support groups you can research. Interview your local adoption agencies to see how they handle notarizations for their clients.

If you have a website, be sure to mention international adoptions so it comes up on a search engine like Google. Attorneys who handle adoption are also a good option since they are not likely to travel or send their staff to the places needed during their business hours.

IIn addition, networking with local Notaries can be another lead for these assignments. Recently I was contacted by a family I helped about 18 months ago who successfully adopted a child. Now they are ready to start the process again and came back to me for child number two. Unfortunately I only have six months left on my current commission, so I could not take the assignment. I referred them to another Notary I knew who had all the requirements they needed. Now she will handle all the appointments for this family over the next few months and will have experience for future assignments.

Ultimately, handling international adoption assignments is a pleasure if you know the rules, are flexible, and enjoy knowing you played a role in building a family.

Laura Biewer owns At Your Service Mobile Notary in Modesto, California. She also teaches seminars for the National Notary Association and is a regular presenter at the NNA’s annual Conferences.

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Add your comment

Renee Bourgeois

08 Aug 2015

Laura, how do you calculate your rate/fee charges for an adoption, from start to finish?

Afton Jackson

26 Sep 2019

I like how people are willing to undergo the lengthy process of the adoption process to finish. However, I am not the one to speak since I do not want children and it is a noble deed to adopt someone despite the long process of documentation for notaries. My cousin and her wife aim to adopt someone abroad as well since they cannot bear children, I believe they need a family adoption attorney to help them.

Roger Rill

24 Dec 2020

I'm at a loss to understand why the commission has to be a year out. The notarization never expires; so as long as the signature notarizations were completed while the commission was valid, it shouldn't matter when the commission expires.


30 Aug 2021

I have adopted 2 children. I now would like to become an adoption notary. I have my 4th renewal on my Florida state’s notary requirements and have a renewed 4 year commission. I would like to know how you charge your fees to the clients.

National Notary Association

17 Sep 2021

Hello. You can find information on becoming a Florida Notary and the fees FL Notaries may charge here:

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