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Notary Public FAQ

Below is information relating to some of the common ways in which a Notaries services are required. Click on one of the links below to jump to that section.


What is the role of a Notary Public?

A Notary's function is to act as a bridge between the English legal system and other foreign systems of law so that your documents can be used in a foreign country through a mechanism called legalisation.

A Notary's role is to verify (or authenticate) legal documents for use abroad. He has to check the identity, capacity and authority of the person signing documents as well. The Notary's primary duty is to the transaction. So notarial acts require a high standard of care, as reliance on such acts is made by clients, third parties and foreign governments and officials.

All notarial work is regulated by the Faculty Office. The best standards of confidentiality and presentation are offered. The notarial practice is covered by professional indemnity insurance and a Compensation Fund.

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Getting married outside the UK

Celebrating a wedding abroad can add to the occasion's excitement and double up as a holiday, but some aspects of the planning can be slightly more complex. Some additional paperwork for visas and wedding licences might be required depending on the destination. Quite often, the services of a notary public and/or an official translator will be required when preparing the documents that need to be submitted to the authorities of the place where the wedding will take place.

Apart from the usual visa procedures required to travel to the chosen destination, each country will apply its own law and requirements for the celebration and registration of the marriage. If one of the spouses is a national of the country where the marriage will take place, the requirements could be different than if both parties to the marriage are tourists.

Typically, the authorities of the relevant country will need proof of identity, often including the couple's birth certificates. If you were born in the UK, it is easy to obtain a copy of your birth certificate online. If you have been married before, they could ask for proof of the dissolution of the previous marriage, such as a divorce decree issued by a county court.

Many foreign authorities also request an additional document to show that you are free to marry. This document can take the form of a 'certificate of non-impediment to marry', which in the UK is issued by your local register office and bears the signature of a registrar. Many countries also accept a sworn declaration or 'affidavit of single status', signed by each of the parties to the marriage. This normally needs to be signed in the presence of a notary public. If you have been married before, then the Certificate making Decree Nisi Absolute or your previous spouse's Death Certificate (if applicable) may also need to be legalised.

Where the foreign destination is not an English-speaking country, translations of all the documents will often be required. These translations will almost invariably need to be certified or notarised.

If you are a UK citizen and you are getting married in a country which is a party to the Hague Convention of 1961, your documents will probably need to be legalised by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. For countries that are not members of the Convention (e.g. Brazil, the UAE or China), you may also need to send the documents to their consulate or embassy in London, who will add their own stamp. In some cases, the first step of the process is to have the documents certified by me as a notary public, and I will then normally also be able to advise about legalisation procedures and handle the legalisation process for you.

The UK government publishes a useful guide, which is updated regularly, to help couples find out the usual documentation requirements when planning to get married in a particular country. You can check the guide out at https://www.gov.uk/marriage-abroad.

If you are considering getting married abroad please contact me.

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Consent to Travel for Minors

Different countries and different carriers have different rules when it comes to taking children on board; proof that a child has parental or guardian permission to travel may be required. To be safe, ask M M Karim Notary Public to prepare a travel consent letter for you or notarise one you have prepared in advance.

This has become an increasingly regular requirement from different government authorities as they look for ways to prevent cases of child abduction. As a result, when a parent is taking his/her own child on holiday or to visit family abroad, it is now often necessary for the non-travelling parent to issue a written confirmation which shows that they have given their consent for the child to travel.

This also tends to be necessary when a minor is left at the airport by a relative who is not travelling as well. As the minor will be under the care of the airline for the duration of the flight (a so-called 'Unmin' or 'Unaccompanied Minor'), a written consent is also usually required from one or both of the parents, who will often need to sign it in advance in the presence of a notary public.

The need to produce a notarised consent, as well as the instructions about the details that should be included in the document, may come directly from the authorities of the country where the child is travelling to or from, or by the airline or travel agent. Some countries have specific legislation or rules about the need for these consents. For instance, South Africa is one of the countries that have recently introduced specific rules regarding travel consents for minors. This information and the current requirements can be found on the website of the South African High Commission in London. Other countries, such as Canada, may not have a legal requirement for these consents but would still strongly advise their citizens to prepare them. The website of the Canadian government offers information in respect of Canadian children, including a suggested wording for the form. Some airlines may also have their own policies in respect of children travelling on one of their flights.

Typically, the consent that parents need to give would have to include their personal details, as well as those of the child and the person travelling with the child, and details of the trip (i.e. dates, place of departure and arrival, and any stopover or flight connection).

In any event, it is highly recommended that parents make enquiries with the airline, the travel agent, and the relevant country's authorities well in advance of the child's trip. When a notarised consent is required, this will involve the parent or parents booking an appointment with a notary to sign the document in the notary's presence. Proof of identity and address will need to be presented to the notary and, in some cases, the person signing may need to present proof of his/her connection to the child.

Depending on where the document is to be used, the my notary's certification may need to be complemented with an Apostille issued by the Foreign Office and, sometimes, with a consular legalisation. I will be able to offer advice and arrange these procedures for you.

Child going on a school cruise? Child travelling with grandparents? Prevent border delays when your child travels by contacting me.

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Certified Copy

"How do I obtain a certified copy of my passport?" is a frequent question. I can deal with checking original documents and then producing certified copies. I can usually provide this service quickly and simply. Make an appointment to come to see me, bring your original document with you to your appointment so that I can verify the same and provide you with a certified copy.

Notarised identity documents are often requested to open bank accounts abroad, to obtain visas and to deal with taxes and pensions abroad, just to name a few. As a notary I am asked to certify many different identity-related documents, such as passports, driving licences, government-issued identity cards, utility bills and bank statements etc..

Many people are confused about what is involved when they are told to 'notarise their passport'. It is in fact a copy of the passport which is notarised (i.e. certified as a true copy by a notary public), rather than the original document. When it comes to having a passport notarised, you may be asked to have just the ID page notarised, the whole passport or certain pages (that contain visas, restrictions or residence permits). It is best to find out from the requesting party which pages you need to have notarised in order to avoid the document being rejected. I am more than happy to make any copies for you so you would not normally have to worry about this.

Another common request I receive when notarising identity documents is to include the true likeness wording to the notarial certificate, which will state that the picture on your ID is a true and accurate likeness of you (as long as you do look like your picture!). Please remember to mention this at the start of your appointment if this is required by the receiving country.

In addition to ID documents, you may need to provide a notarised proof of address. These can include utility bills or bank statements. You should note that a mobile phone statement is not normally accepted as a proof of address so please keep this in mind when selecting which document you use. It is advisable to use a proof of address that is recent (typically something dated within the last three months), therefore a driving licence is unlikely to be the best option unless it is clearly stated that it would be accepted in the instructions the requesting party has provided.

As a notary I will normally need to see both your proof of ID and your proof of address when attending the appointment, as notaries are under a professional obligation to identify their client and they are also subject to money laundering regulations and other legislation that establishes identification requirements. Even if you only need your passport notarised, as a notary I will still need to see a current proof of address.

If your document needs to be legalised as well as notarised, I should also be able to arrange this for you. After notarising the document, it often needs to be sent to the Foreign Office to obtain the Hague Apostille. If further legalisation is required at the Consulate of the receiving country, then this is also something I can assist you with. For example, if your document is to be used in UAE, then the document will probably need to go to the Foreign Office and to the UAE Consulate in London to obtain their respective stamps. It is best to check with the receiving party what steps are needed to ensure the documents are accepted.

Please be aware that from 8th June 2015, the paper counterpart of your driving licence will no longer be valid and the DVLA will no longer be issuing these. So please do not use the counterpart to show your proof of address as it will not be accepted. Further information about the change and how this affects you can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/driving-licence-changes

Please consider all of the following before attending your appointment:

  • Have the original documents with you (passport/utility bill)
  • Find out how many copies you need
  • Which pages need to be notarised
  • Use a recent proof of address
  • The counterpart driving licence will no longer be valid from 8th June 2015

I am able to certify all types of documents including, but not limited to- passports, academic qualifications, certifying and authenticating documents for emigration and immigration. Please contact me for your specific requirements.

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Company Documents

Companies, like individuals, often find themselves having to execute documents in order to carry out their activities. Contracts, resolutions, powers of attorney, application forms or Companies House documents are just a few of the documents that companies may need to have notarised for different purposes. As some of these documents require a signature to show the consent or approval of the company, it is necessary for it to be represented by one or more individuals who can set a signature on the document on the company's behalf.

When a document executed by a company in England or Wales needs to be presented to a foreign authority, it is often the case that the document needs to be notarised (i.e. certified by a notary public). The role of the notary is to provide reliable information concerning the document and the company itself so that the foreign authority, notary, or any third party, can rely on the document and the intended transaction or procedure can take place. These are some of the details that I as a notary should be able to certify:

  • The name and personal details of the individual who signs on behalf of the company
  • How that person is linked to the company (e.g. whether the signatory is a director or an attorney-in-fact of the company)
  • The fact that, at the time of the signing, the signatory is of sound mind and understands the contents and effect of the documentThe current existence and main details of the company (e.g. company name, registered address, registration number, etc.)
  • The fact that the document has been correctly executed by the company in accordance with English law

There are rules about who can sign documents on behalf of a company, and I as the notary will have to make sure that these provisions have been correctly followed before the notarisation can take place. When it comes to companies registered in the UK, the main provisions can be found in the Companies Act 2006, but there are other statutes that may be relevant, such as the legislation relating to powers of attorney and other legal provisions dealing with different types of entities (limited liability partnerships, companies registered abroad, etc.)

The general rule for UK company documents, other than contracts, but especially for documents that are classified as deeds (e.g. powers of attorney) is that these must be executed using one of the following methods:

  • By the signature of two directors of the company
  • By the signature of a director of the company and the secretary of the company
  • By the signature of a director of the company in the presence of an attesting witness
  • By the affixing of the company's common seal in the presence of one or more officers of the company

Few UK companies use common seals these days but, when they do, the affixing of the common seal on a document must also be done in accordance with the company's prescribed procedure, which is usually to be found in the articles of association of the company.

The reference to the directors of the company means those individuals who have been appointed as 'statutory directors' of the company and whose appointment as directors is, therefore, registered with Companies House. A person whose job title within the company includes the word 'director' (e.g. a marketing director), but who has not been formally appointed a director of the company and is not listed as such in the records of Companies House, will not have the necessary authority to execute the documents to which the above rules apply.

Apart from the statutory rules summarised above, companies may have their own internal rules, which might establish more restrictive methods for the execution of documents by the company. For instance, a company could decide that the signature of two or more directors will always be compulsory for the signing of a corporate power of attorney, ruling out the other possibilities. When a company has approved its own rules about the signing or execution of documents, these are normally to be found in the articles of association of the company.

Once I have identified the individual(s) signing the document and am satisfied that all the correct procedures have been followed, I as a notary will then prepare a notarial certificate in which I will confirm the necessary information. The certificate will be issued with my signature and seal, and will normally be bound securely to the document.

Depending on the destination country of the document, it may be necessary to have the notarial certificate legalised with the Hague apostille, which is issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. A legalisation by a chamber of commerce or by a consulate may also be necessary. This will depend on the requirements of the document's destination country and it is a good idea to double-check any procedures with the authorities of that country. I will be able to offer guidance regarding the legalisation procedure.

If you require company documents to be authenticated, whether you are an individual or a corporate company please contact me with your specific requirements.

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Power of Attorney

In what many describe as the age of electronic communications, we can now use our smart phones to transfer money from our bank account, submit our tax returns from our sofa using a laptop and do our weekly shop from our work on a PC.

However, there are still many things we have to do, that involve physical interaction and many documents that require a written signature. This is why the little-known profession of 'notary public' exists. I assist a range of customers from all walks of life on a daily basis.

Think, for instance, of a contract to purchase a new house or an agreement for the distribution of a couple's assets following a divorce. Advances are being made in the development of e-signature systems but, even though digital signatures are becoming more common, we are still quite far from seeing the disappearance of the traditional signature.

On many occasions, not only your signature but also your physical presence is a requirement. This is even more common in some foreign countries. If you live in London, you can sign a sale agreement at home with your neighbour as a witness, but buying a property in many European countries, such as Spain, France or Italy, involves attending the offices of a specific type of lawyer (a 'notary') in person and signing the documents in the notary's presence.

But what happens if you have been to a foreign country, agreed to buy the villa of your dreams, and when the time comes to sign the contract, you cannot take time off work to travel to the foreign country overseas for the signing? And what if you want to sell some land you own overseas that you have inherited and do not want to spend money travelling to that country just to visit the lawyers office in that country?

In these circumstances, many people grant a Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney is a document which allows you to appoint someone else (your 'attorney') to represent you and do things on your behalf, including the signing of legal documents. An attorney does not necessarily have to be a lawyer - many people appoint a relative or a friend. You can choose the extent of the authority that you want to delegate to your attorney, which can be very wide, or restricted to specific transactions. Certain things are so personal they cannot be delegated to an attorney (e.g. signing your will, casting your vote in a general election or taking your driving test). But many things, including the signing of a property purchase, can be done through someone acting on your behalf under the authority granted by means of a power of attorney.

Powers of Attorney executed in England and Wales are regulated by the Powers of Attorney Act 1971. When a Power of Attorney is going to be used abroad, some additional formalities might be necessary in order to fulfil the expectations of the foreign authorities. One of the most common requirements in such cases is that the Power of Attorney is certified by a notary public. In order to do that, the person signing the power (the grantor) must normally meet in person with a notary public who will certify the identity and signature of the grantor, and make sure that the document is executed properly. The notary usually places his or her own signature and seal on the power of attorney, or on a certificate attached to it, and this acts as a confirmation - which the foreign authorities can rely on - that the document has been properly executed by the correct person.

Your Powers of Attorney should be limited to the minimum necessary to conduct the business at hand. Attention needs to be paid to where your deposit monies are going. What guarantees are in place to ensure that your money will be safe? At M M Karim Notary Public I can liaise with the agents overseas in drafting the Power of Attorney - ensuring it is limited to the minimum necessary to conduct the business at hand; or we can notarise and legalise existing documents.

Sometimes additional steps are required (for example, the power of attorney often needs to be legalised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and/or the relevant embassy before being sent to the foreign country). These are steps I, as a notary public would normally able to help you with.

Next time you have dealings in a foreign country but cannot afford to travel in person, you know there is another practical option: contact me and consider giving a Power of Attorney.

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Academic Qualifications / Certificates

In the age of globalisation more and more of us are making the decision to live and work abroad with the United Arab Emirates, Australia and United States being some of the top destinations for British emigrants. Whilst it goes without saying that such a substantial move requires much preparation, there are also many behind-the-scenes practical actions that need to be taken in order to obtain a visa.

As a notary public I often help with the certification and legalisation of documents required to apply for a visa. In many cases of relocation there is a need for the notarisation (i.e. certification by a notary public) of educational qualifications, and in particular, degree or master's certificates.

  1. The verification process. In order to notarise a copy (or in some cases, the original) of your degree certificate, as a notary public I will usually need to verify its authenticity. This process involves contacting the university's transcripts or records department to confirm that they indeed issued the document in the first place.The waiting period for the document to be verified varies greatly from institution to institution, as do their requirements. Some institutions that have signed up to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck allow certificates to be checked in minutes, whereas other institutions may take a few weeks to confirm the authenticity. Some universities charge small verification fees to issue this confirmation. Secondary schools, colleges and universities will normally ask that you give permission for this information to be released to third parties, in accordance with the Data Protection Act.You would therefore need to fill in and sign a consent letter to allow me to contact the institution(s) on your behalf.

  2. Certifying the document. Once I have verified the authenticity of your certificate, I will be able to notarise a copy of it. I will draft a notarial certificate confirming that the document is a true copy of your original certificate. If appropriate, I will also state that I have verified the authenticity of the original degree certificate and that the institution who issued it is an accredited institution. After affixing my seal and signature to the document, I will then securely bind the notarial certificate with the copy of the degree certificate.If the original certificate is notarised, then the notarial certificate will need to be attached to the original rather than a copy, and the wording of the notarial certificate will be slightly different. It is best to check with the receiving party whether a notarised copy is sufficient; otherwise you might need to order a new certificate from your university to keep for your records. Note that some universities charge fees to issue replacement certificates.

  3. Legalisation. As a notary public I can assist you with certifying the authenticity of your degree certificate, often this will not be sufficient for use abroad, or for visa purposes. Much will depend on the requirements of the destination country or the receiving party - in countries that are parties to the Hague Convention of 1961, your documents will often need to be legalised by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to obtain an 'Apostille'. For countries that are not parties to the Convention, the documents may also need the additional step of legalisation at the relevantConsulate or Embassy in London. I can assist you with this.It is important to bear in mind that the Foreign Office will not legalise, and I may not be able to certify, academic certificates issued by institutions that are not recognised. For documents issued by UK academic institutions, you can check the UK government's list of recognised bodies here.For academic certificates issued outside the UK, I may need to make further enquiries to be able to confirm that the document is authentic and that the institution is recognised. Otherwise, it may only be possible for me to certify a true copy of the document, stating that the authenticity of the original document has not been verified.

  4. Translation. Depending on where the documents are going to be used, you might need to have them translated into the official language of the relevant country. It might be a good idea to enquire about the need for translation at the beginning of the process, as sometimes it is more convenient to arrange the translation as the first step of the process. Bear in mind that simple translations are often not sufficient and, depending on the destination country, you might require sworn translations or translations that have been certified by me as a notary public.

If you are considering moving abroad and require academic qualifications/certificates notarised please contact me.

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Indian OCI Card Application

As a London Notary Public based in East London, I am often asked to notarise documents for India and Indian citizens. An 'OCI Card' (Overseas Citizen of India Card) is a multiple-entry visa which enables the client to have unlimited travel and stay in India for the rest of his or her life.

As a Notary Public I have helped several clients successfully obtain OCI cards.

In order for a notary client to be eligible for an OCI card, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • you are eligible to become a citizen of India after 26 January 1950;
  • you are a citizen of India, on or any time after 26 January 1950; or
  • you belong to a territory that became part of India after 15 August 1947;

From 2nd March 2015, to obtain an OCI Card a Notary Public client will need to fill out an application from the VFS centres for OCI services. You may be required to bring with you an original copy of your:

  • birth certificate;
  • school leaver certificates;
  • naturalisation certificate; and
  • a copy of your old Indian passport.

In order to qualify for an OCI card you may require a notarised affidavit swearing that you have never held an Indian Passport at the same time as holding a British Passport. As a Notary Public I can notarise the Affidavit as well as certify and notarise copies of all supporting paperwork used within your application.

Further information on OCI cards is available from the website of the Indian High Commission in London at https://www.hcilondon.in/pages.php?id=37.

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PIO Cards

As of 9th January 2015, PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards are no longer being issued. Holders of existing PIO cards need not worry as the card is still valid for lifelong travel. If you wish to convert your PIO card to an OCI, as a Notary Public in London I can assist you. To obtain more information please visit https://www.hcilondon.in/pages.php?id=36.

If you are considering applying for an OCI Card please contact me.

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Doctor relocating to Australia?

General Practitioners/ Midwives and Nurses Working in Australia:

As a London Notary Public based in the East London- my office is very close proximity to main tube and bus lines. I am frequently asked to assists doctors, nurses and medical staff who are moving to Working in Australia. I have successfully assisted many medical practitioners to move to Australia and Notarise the necessary paperwork to ensure a smooth administrative process. As a notary in London I provide assistance with execution of the various forms required by the Australian medical authorities before medical staff can move to Australia to work within their system.

The documents required to be notarised before a Notary Public are several and can include:

  • Notarised Documents for Austraila
  • Notarised Passport.
  • Notarised and/or legalised Birth Certificate.
  • Notarised Passport photos.
  • A Sworn and Sealed Statutory Declaration.
  • A certified and Notarised Medical degree certificate(s).
  • An AMC form signed before a London Notary Public.
  • A Nursing licence signed before a London Notary Public.
  • A certified and Notarised GMC certificate.

To complete this process you are advised to book an appointment to come and see me at which point I will need to see all the original documents and photocopies of each document. From my experience of notarising documents for Australia, I advise my notary clients to obtain 3 notarised copies of each document. Usually 3 notarised documents are required for:

  • AMC
  • AHPRA and
  • the medical practitioners' hospital

I will need to verify the academic awards and this usually requires me obtaining proof directly from a university that degree certificates are genuinely and accurate. I am used to dealing with the General Medical Council and can usually obtain Notary verification in the same day. In addition as a Notary Public I will then certify each document as a true copy of the original and be sealed and stamped.

For further details or to book an appointment please contact me.

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Moving Abroad to Work?

A big attraction of going to work abroad like countries in the UAE or Gulf is that there is no income tax and it is often seen as an exciting and invigorating place for upwardly-mobile Brits with professional skills. When you are offered a job, the company that employs you will probably process the formalities required for getting you the work permit and this involves initially getting you a residence permit.

Before a visa can be granted, you will need all your personal and academic certificates certified by a notary and fully legalised. Note: only original birth or marriage certificates (or any type of certificate with a crown) can be legalised.

The UAE authorities are extremely particular about the necessary documents and the absence of even one can result in your application being refused. Hence, you should be extremely careful that you have all the following documents:

  • Passport, which should have at least six months validity.
  • If you are accompanied by your spouse and children each one of them should have a separate passport.
  • There should not be any Israel visa entry on the passport.
  • Marriage certificate (if your spouse is accompanying you)
  • If you are a female employee and will have your children staying with you, you will need a letter of consent from the father of the children which is certified, notarised and attested.
  • Notarised copies of your academic certificates.

Please contact me if you need any further information on any Gulf country or any other country you may be thinking of moving to for the purposes of work. I have extensive experience in helping my notary clients in attaining what is required before they move abroad for work.

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