Lee St office call 0406 115 895 or York St office call 0402 357 086 pt@siriuslaw.com.au


Which is cheaper: Fly back home or see the Notary?

Notaries in Australia are not cheap. They are qualified lawyers with several years experience. The fee scale for Notaries in NSW can be found at www.notarynsw.org.au/fees-scale. Mostly you are being asked to notarise the documents in Australia because you are not in the overseas country where it needs to be signed. If you were overseas in many instances you could sign it there. Notarising a document in NSW is cheaper than flying overseas to do it. And this doesn’t take into account the time involved in flying there and back (which would mean taking time off work) For transactions with several documents you can also negotiate a discount or preferred rate. 

Good preparation saves money

There are simple things you can do to save money before you see a notary. Otherwise a notary is entitled to charge for the time it takes to do this work.

If you are having documents certified as true copies you do not need the notary to make the copy (since the notary will compare the original against the copy) You can bring in the copy and the original of each document.  Today I had a client bring in lengthy documents which were printed front and back. It took me over a quarter of an hour to make the copies.

If you are signing on behalf of a company and the notary is required to confirm that you are an officer it makes sense to have an ASIC search ready to verify details (although many notaries including myself will insist on doing the ASIC search themselves).

The rule of thumb is to think through anything that you can do in advance. If in doubt call ahead and discuss with the notary.  You may also want to send documents in advance for the notary to review. The notary is entitled to charge for this but it is usually more cost effective than sorting out problems in a consult.

Can a notary issue an “Apostille”?

In Austalia, documents can only be apostillised or authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

You cannot, however, obtain an apostille (or have documents authenticated) until the notary function is performed. This is the case unless the documents are original documents issued by Australian Government Departments with an official signature, seal or stamp.

DFAT will not accept a Justice of the Peace for Authentication or Apostillisation.

So the process mostly looks like this, notarisation, apostillisation (or authentication) and then if necessary legalisation by a specific embassy.

If the overseas country requires an apostille and you see a notary but overlook obtaining the apostille your documents will most likely be rejected.

In Sydney, the authentications and apostillisation section of the Department of Foreign Affairs is at Level 7, 26 Lee Street Central (the Passports office). Opening hours are 9 am to 1 pm so make sure you lodge during this time. You will need to leave the documents with the Department and turn-around time is approximately 3 business days. See the DFAT website for more details www.dfat.gov.au

**note  – since writing this article DFAT no longer accepts “walk in” counter lodgments. You need an appointment to lodge over the counter. Turn around time, however, is now usually 1 day. Updated: 19/5/2017

Make an appointment with the Notary

Making an appointment with a notary is recommeded. If you arrive at our offices without an appointment we will do our best to fit you in to see one of our notaries.
At times we will not be able to accomodate. What a waste time!
Notaries are also solicitors. We might be in another meeting. Or out of the office.
At minimum be sure to phone ahead. At SYDNEY NOTARY, we are available at short notice but we still need some notice.

Watch your signature!

I am surprised at how many people’s signatures evolve over time. They have passports which are current for 10 years and during this time their signature changes. It might become abbreviated, or even shortened to remove a middle name. Their current credit cards reflects the new way of signing. If this is the case make sure you have at least one form of photo identification with the “new improved” signature. The notary can always ask you to sign for him or her using the old signature (to prove it was you) but sometimes without practice these old signatures can be hard to replicate. The notary will determine overall that you are the person you identify yourself to be but having a consistent signature helps.

Be wary of notaries being too cheap

The government has a recommended scale for notary fees. You can find this at www.notarynsw.org.au

There is a reason for these listed fees. These reflect the professional time costs of performing the various items.

Some notaries undercut these fees and opt to charge less. This might mean that they are choosing to make a loss on the real time needed to perform the task. Of concern however is when the notary rushes the task since they have ‘underquoted’. They might be short with a client, or not ask as many questions or just rush a job inviting inadvertent mistakes.

Personally I would be wary of using a notary who charges noticeably less than the recommended scale. I have had to fix notarial work of notaries who haven’t completed jobs with proper diligence and care.

Of course, the matter is up to you, but the recommended scale exists for a reason. And that reason is that it is a fair estimate of the charges.

Don’t get caught out with witnesses

Some powers of attorney and other documents need a notary to witness the document plus two additional witnesses.

I have seen these documents more than once. Usually the client doesn’t inform me and then I have to quickly find two colleagues to witness the signatures.

If your document requires you to have these two additional witnesses be sure to raise this with the notary when making a booking.

Some notaries will charge for bringing in the additional witnesses. Some may not. You always have the option of bringing two of your friends (but note NOT family).

This way you are supplying the witnesses and there should be no need for any additional charges.

If you are not bringing the additional witnesses you should give the notary adequate notice so that he or she can organise for the two additional people to be available at your appointment time.

Things to know about Apostilles

I often get asked the following “I need an Apostille. Can you provide one?”
A notary cannot issue an Apostille. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) is the only body in Australia that can issue an Apostille. Although there are exceptions, DFAT will not issue an Apostille until a notary notarises your documents.
So the first step to obtain an Apostille is to see a notary.
Some notaries and others offer Apostille services (which means they will handle the lodgement process at DFAT). If you live in Australia you can make the lodgement. You can search the DFAT website for further information.

How to know what a notary should be charging you

Most people want to know how much the notary will charge for notarising their documents.
A notary cannot give a definitive quote until he or she sees your documents and can assess your exact matter requirements.
The notary, however, can give you a guide as to how much the fees might be.
The various state governments have prescribed recommend fee scales.
In NSW these can be found by going to the following link:  www.notarynsw.org.au/fees_scale.
You can also find the relevant websites in other states at www.notarynsw.org.au/links

Notary Clients wasted money – check your overseas documents

If your document is for use overseas then it needs to comply with the laws of that country.
My advice is to research as much as possible what form is needed for the overseas country. That way, when you attend before the notary you are clear what is needed from the notarial function in Australia.
If your matter does not warrant use of a notary or lawyer overseas to manage the matter then I recommend contacting the relevant embassy or consulate and asking them for guidance on how to get your document for that country. An example of this is for a Power of Attorney for use in India.

My document is in a foreign language, can I sign it in front of a notary?

The answer is “It depends”  There is one argument that if the notary simply identifies you and makes it clear that he or she does not understand the language and is just performing the notarial witnessing function, then the notary can perform this role. This may be acceptable to the recipient. But it may not be what the recipient is looking for. Please call us to discuss the facts and circumstances for your matter so we can advise you on what is needed.

Can I use a JP instead of a notary?

I get asked this question often. “Can I use a JP to take care of my documents? JP’s don’t charge but notaries do?”

Notaries and JP’s perform similar functions in that they both witness documents, take oaths and verify copies of originals.

The rule of thumb however is that if the documents are for use outside of Australia then you need to use a notary.

As one of my colleagues once described, Notaries are “international JPs”.



Often forms are created overseas and need to be signed by the person the form is about and also by a notary. Before you see the notary you need to read the forms and see if they require the notary to say things about you. In almost all cases a notary will not be in a position to attest to facts which concern you. You need to check with the place to where the forms are going overseas whether it is ok for the notary to amend the form so he or she is comfortable to sign about the things he or she does know and cross out the other things.

If the form cant be amended you will need to bring evidence to prove to the notary the contents of the form. For example, if the form requires the notary to say you are a director of a company you need to bring a company search or document showing that you are appointed as a director. Otherwise the notary may have to turn you away, which is a waste of everyone’s time, and a notary may charge for the consultation.

The biggest mistake you can make before seeing a notary

It happens more often than you think. People need to sign something before a notary as witness but they sign the documents before they come in. I then have to request that they sign the document again so I can witness the signing. It is not a good look to have two signatures on a page. Otherwise we have to take steps to get a blank version of the form for them to resign. Unless they happened to have a spare handy, this involves accessing the internet from my office and reprinting or accessing via email.

Sometimes a customer has to phone back to their office to have someone email me the document. If the form has preliminary details to complete before signing (name, address and so forth) and customers then have to fill them in whilst at my office. All this takes up professional time and does not assist me to stick to price guidelines for documents. In summary if your document needs a witness then you must allow your witness to witness you signing.

Verifying Copy Documents – How to Save Money

Professional time is a consideration in what notaries charge and what if any discount they are able to give. Therefore it makes sense to do everything you can before you see a notary. Its amazing how many people come in unprepared and what should have been a ten minute consult quickly becomes a half hour or forty minute one.

1. Make your own copies of the original documents. Allowing a notary to use professional time to do something as basic as copying is a complete and often expensive inefficiency for a customer.
For example, University testamurs (commonly requiring certification of the original) are usually large, and framed and if there is messing about to get them copied or shrunk copied to an A4 page then it should be you messing about not the notary.
For passports you almost always only need to copy the identification page (or one or two other specific pages by request).
If documents have a front and back, even if it is only an ID number, copy both of these sides (either as separate pages or front and back) since otherwise this is not a true and complete copy.
For utility or bank statements which have several pages, copy all pages even if the request is only for the first page containing your address. The notary can then decide in his or her discretion whether all pages need certifying, but it is helpful to give them the option. That way you will save notary time if the notary does decide it is necessary for your matter.
2. Notaries are entitled to charge for comparing the original document with the copy document. The recommended charge for this is $45 for each block of time 6 minutes or under. Be sure to have your documents organised properly so that the notary can make the comparison easily and quickly.