Chances are 95% of your notarizations are for use in the USA. Every now and then along comes a request to notarize a document destined to be used in a different country. Documents prepared outside of the USA present special requirements. I have processed many. They range from being in a foreign language, to ones in English. They virtually never have a useable notary section. The usual procedure is to slap on an acknowledgement, the wording taken from the state notary manual. That’s fine; it’s certainly a legal notarization. But will it fly in the destination country?
A State issued Apostille is generally added, procedures vary by state. They either issue an Apostille or a Certification; depending on the target country’s ratification status with The Hague. Is it complete? Perhaps, but often there is more work to do. China, for example requires the addition of their “tax stamp” for the document to be used in their country. That procedure entails, at the NYC location; an application form, a complete (and they do a page by page check) copy of the document. As the NY State added Apostille is affixed with a tamper resistant “grommet” it’s hard to photocopy the underlying pages. It’s best to, just prior to the Apostille step; photocopy everything – then when the Apostille is added – photocopy the top page. China offers a variety of “service levels”, same day, three day and a week; with varying fees. I have gone there to find them closed; causing my prior commitment for delivery to be thwarted; I did not know they had both US and China holidays “off”.
Another example is Brazil. They are very strict as to how the document is bound. One of my projects was over two hundred pages. I could not find a stapler with that capacity. My submission for their “tax stamp” was rejected initially. The document had to be bound, just like a book; for them to accept it. Sometimes there are genuinely nice surprises. The waiting room at the Brazilian Embassy has an urn with the most wonderful coffee, no charge. Hope you like your coffee without milk or sugar – none is available.
Other countries have their own specifications. Some want every page to have a notary stamp, bound or not. Some go a step further and require embossing on each page. At least one requires the original passport of the affiant to be shown, actually left with them till the time of pickup. Some folks just don’t like leaving me their passport for a few days; but unless they go to the Embassy, they have no choice.
One has to start with a state compliant notarization to obtain a state issued apostille. But how about the notary section on the original document? Many destinations also require their “notary section” to also be completed. This can be a real problem. I often run into this situation with European “proof of life” documents whereby pensioners must annually submit proof they are still alive. This is a bit of a dilemma. For the German authorities to accept it – their “notary section” must also be completed. But, I am not fluent in that language. It’s quite a leap of faith to sign on a line, when the above text; and the writing under the line are in German! Am I declaring that I am an attorney? Or worse? Scanning the document and using translation software is one approach. Or, an impartial translator; but not the affiant!
There are 190+ sovereign countries in the world. I have been handed what the affiant purported to be a Latvian divorce application and asked if the form met all requirements for use in Latvia! Clearly way above my pay grade. The key point is to document your responsibilities, in writing; clearly stating that you are unable to guarantee suitability for purpose. Also, clearly state what you are able to do. Refer them to legal services where the document is destined to be used. Don’t assume, don’t guess. Either have your client explicitly state your duties, in an email; or offer to research, for a fee; what is needed.
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