Documents requiring notarisation for use in the USA

Posted: 22nd April 2014

In order to be valid in the USA there are many types of documents which must be certified by a notary – what is known as having the document “notarised”. Documents requiring such authentication might be affidavits for court process, declarations, powers of attorney or acknowledgements relating to real estate, to name just a few examples. In order to deal with such a requirement in the UK one option is to attend the US Embassy where certain consular officials can act as certifying officers. However, there may be occasions when it is not practical to attend there: obtaining the services of a London Notary Public may be more convenient.

UK Notary Public, US Notary – What’s the difference?

The UK Notary Public is not the same as the US notary, but they can nevertheless assist. Indeed, the role of the Notary Public in England and Wales is to authenticate and certify documentation for use overseas. In the UK Notaries Public are legally-qualified public officers. The qualification process requires a law degree, plus additional vocational training.

The majority of Notaries Public are solicitors, augmenting their work with a notarial element. In central London, however, there are several firms of “Scrivener Notaries” who operate solely as London Notaries Public and do not act as legal advisers. If, for instance, you require documents to be notarised at short notice in Canary Wharf, then a firm of Scrivener Notaries may be best placed to help.

How to Obtain authentication of documents

Obtaining authentication of documents by a UK Notary Public entails the following steps.

First, an appointment will be required where the signatory meets with the Notary Public in person. They will need to prove their identity (by original current passport) and their residential address (by recent original bank statement / utility bill / council tax bill). If the signatory wishes to sign on behalf of a corporate entity then it may be necessary to show proof of the existence of that entity and proof of their representational authority.

The document to be notarised will need to be produced to the Notary Public in its completed and entire form, with all attachments and exhibits present. Once signed and sworn to, it will be bound with ribbon and sealed with wax seal.

Second, the document will typically need to be “legalised” pursuant to the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961 on the Legalisation of Documents. This requires the document to be physically taken to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London, where a certificate (known as the “Apostille”) is affixed to it. The Apostille confirms the Notary Public’s identity and capacity to act in that role. The notarial firms in London can deal with this step on behalf of their clients within one working day.

Once the document has been notarised and also bears the Apostille it is ready to be sent on and used in the USA.


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