A notary public is not the same as a Justice of the Peace (JP). The main difference between a Justice of Peace and a Notary Public is that a Justice of Peace is only recognised in Australia while a Notary Public is recognised in overseas jurisdictions. In short, a Notary Public is an international Justice of the Peace.

Many business transactions and contracts require the contract to be notarised by a Notary Public when the document will be used overseas. While a notary public can authenticate a document to be used in Australia, a Justice of Peace may be a more financially sound decision. 

What is a Notary Service?

A notary service will depend on which country the document is going to and the nature of the document, as well as any authentication or legislation that applies. The notary process may be a one, two or three step process. It is recommended that you confirm the requirements to ensure the document is executed correctly.

  • A one-step process is where a document must be notarised by a Notary Public before it can be sent overseas.
  • A two-step process is where a document is first notarised by a Notary Public and then authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) who affix an apostille (a $83 fee), and then it can go overseas. 
  • A three-step process is where a Notary Public first notarises the document, and then “legalised” by the DFAT and then thirdly sent to the relevant consulate or embassy for them to legalise. 

Role of a JP and Notary

A JP’s role is primarily focused on certifying a person’s identity and certifying true copies of original documents. This may also include witnessing affidavits and statutory declarations. A Public Notary can carry out the role of a JP, as well as have their own official seal. This official seal and the signature that comes along with it is recognised in Australian, foreign and international courts.

A Notary can:

  • verify a person’s identity and witness their signature and fingerprints;
  • authenticate and witness the execution of documents;
  • take and witness statutory declarations;
  • prepare certificates of law in overseas jurisdictions; and
  • certify that a document is a correct copy of the document so that can be recognised throughout the world in a legal capacity.

DFAT’s role is to witness documents such as affidavits and administer oaths or affirmations. DFAT does not attest to the authenticity of the document — this is the role of the notary public.

Notary Service Locator

If a document requires a witness, it must be done in person. Each State and Territory has public notary registers which include notaries available to witness documents. You can find these details online, or contact your local council for further information.

Anthony Lieu
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