Are you required to have a public notary create a certificate, or witness a signature or company execution? We set out below five FAQs regarding what happens when you see a public notary and what you should bring.

1. What Do I Need to Do?

The first step is to contact a public notary to explain what you require. The public notary will ask to see the request for the notarial act or other instructions, to understand the requirements. Our goal is to provide you with exactly what you need so that the matter can be dealt with expeditiously locally or internationally. The public notary will then make an appointment with you to attend their office in person.

2. What Do I Need to Bring?

You need to bring the request for the notarial act or other instructions so that we can check this. You need to bring 100 points of identification, including photo identification and identification that confirms your current address (for example, your passport and your driver’s license). If any relevant document is not in English, we may require you to bring a translation or we may have a translation made.

3. What Happens When I See the Notary?

The public notary will check your identification including your photo and address, as well as confirm the request for the notarial act or other instructions. We will discuss this with you, to check that you understand what is required.

The public notary will create the necessary notarial certificate, or witness the required documents, or perform the other task required. She or he will sign and seal the notarial certificate with their official seal.

4. What Kind of Tasks Can a Public Notary Perform?

A public notary can provide a notarial certificate as to identity, to prove a person’s identity for an international purpose. For example, a public notary can certify a person’s identity with Australian identification for an international transaction. She or he can provide a general certificate as to the execution of documents, to witness and to certify that a particular person has executed documents for international use. For example, a director of a company who exports products to China may need a public notary to witness the director’s signature on a Certificate as to Composition of Beauty Products so that they can export the products to China.

5. How Do I Use a Document Internationally?

A public notary can explain what is required to use the notarial certificate in an international country. There are different requirements for different countries. For example, if a notarial certificate is for use in China, the key steps are as follows:

Step 1:  Authentication with DFAT

Firstly, the client or the public notary needs to apply to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to authenticate the document. The client or public notary can do so by lodging a Legalisation Request Form and the Notarial Certificate with the DFAT Australian Passport Office.

DFAT will certify that the public notary’s signature and seal is genuine by checking it against the public notary’s signature and seal on the DFAT file. DFAT can provide the authentication document on the same day or the next business day, depending on the complexity.

Step 2: Authorisation With the Chinese Embassy

Once DFAT authenticates the Notarial Certificate, the client or the public notary needs to apply for the Chinese Embassy to also authenticate the document. If the document was notarised in New South Wales, the application needs to be lodged with the Chinese Consulate in Sydney.


Each State or 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.

Ursula Hogben
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