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A Justice of the Peace (JP) and a Notary Public both certify people’s identities on documents and authenticate true copies of original documents. This means that JPs and Notary Publics play similar roles within their communities and the legal system as a whole. However, there are some key differences between the two titles.

The main difference between a JP and a Notary Public is that a JP can only provide assistance in Australia. A Notary Public, on the other hand, is recognised in both Australia and overseas. Essentially, a Notary Public is an international JP. This article will explain the differences between the main functions that each role performs.

What Is a JP?

JPs provide a number of important legal services within Australia, such as:

  • witnessing a person make a statutory declaration;
  • witnessing a person make an affidavit; and
  • certifying copies of original documents.

Primarily, JPs provide independent verification of legal documents. Although you do not have to be a lawyer to be a JP, all practising lawyers are automatically able to act as a JP.

What Is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public can carry out the same tasks as a JP. However, they can also authenticate documents intended for use overseas. Because of this greater responsibility, becoming a Notary Public is a longer process than becoming a JP. To become a Notary Public, a candidate must: 

  • have been a lawyer for at least five continuous years;
  • currently hold an Australian practising certificate; and
  • complete the Notarial Practice Course.

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Levels of Notary Service

Because Notary Publics assist with a wide range of documents, the processes they follow vary. For example, in a:

  • one-step process, where they notarise a document before you send it overseas;
  • two-step process, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) authenticates a document which a Notary Public notarises before sending it overseas; and
  • three-step process, a document is notarised, then authenticated by the DFAT and finally sent to the relevant consulate or embassy for final certification.

Common examples of documents requiring notary services include particular affidavits and real estate deeds. The Court may not deem a broad range of other documents to be legally binding without having been properly notarised. 

For instance, many powers of attorney, wills, deeds and contracts will need to be notarised before they can be enforced overseas.

To notarise documents, a Notary Public will affix their official seal or inked stamp next to their signatures. The involvement of a Notary Public might be relaxed if the parties to the legal document are part of the Hague Convention, which works at instilling comity between countries.

How Do I Find a JP or a Notary Public?

In order to find a JP, you can contact a practising lawyer. Most states also have a Justices of the Peace register. For example, in NSW there is an online register that lists current JPs in the state. As well as the register, libraries, councils, post offices and some pharmacies often make JPs available at scheduled times.

You can find a Notary Public through the national online directory, which also provides further information about the kind of assistance this role can provide. In NSW, the Notary locator lists names of Notaries Public in many suburbs across the state. However, you should make sure that a Notary Public has been admitted and appointed by the Supreme Court in the relevant state or Territory. In Sydney, for example, the Legal Profession Admission Board administers the appointment of Notaries Public.

Despite a JP or Notary Public’s involvement, you should nevertheless confirm the requirements of your document to ensure that you execute it correctly.

Key Takeaways

A JP and a Notary Public can help in authenticating important legal documents. If the documents are just for Australian use, a JP can assist. However, if the documents are for overseas use, you will need a Notary Public. When using the services of either person, be sure to provide sufficient proof of identification so that they can approve of the legal document as required. If you need advice on a contract or legal document that is for Australian or international use, call LegalVision’s contract lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a JP?

A JP stands for Justice of the Peace. They can complete a number of important legal services within Australia, including witnessing documents.

What is a notary public?

A Notary Public can carry out the same tasks as a JP, but can also authenticate documents that individuals can then use in different countries.

How can I find a notary public?

You can find a notary public to witness your overseas documents by searching the national online directory.

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