Notarisation is a process whereby a document is authenticated and certified so that the recipients in a transaction can be confident they are valid and genuine. The service is provided by a specially designated lawyer called a notary public.
What is a notary public?
A notary public is an official status allowing that person the right to notarise documents. Rules surround appointing a notary public; they are almost always Singapore-qualified advocates and solicitors with a minimum of fifteen years in legal practice and at least forty years old.
The Board of Commissioners appoints notaries public. They must be ‘fit and proper persons’. That means no bankrupts or lawyers who have been struck off the roll of solicitors, and no lawyers who have been found guilty of misconduct.
What role does a notary public perform?
The Notaries Public Act defines and controls the activities of a notary public in Singapore.
Simply put, their role is to prevent fraud or other criminal activity. A notary public examines documents as part of the notarisation process to confirm they are genuine. Their service includes verifying the facts contained in a document.
A notary public also ensures the person executing the document is not subject to any duress or coercion and is doing so of their own free will.
Notary public services for businesses and individuals
Most people outside the legal profession don’t know what a notary public is or what they do until they need to use one. Even in situations where the services of a notary public are not required, some businesses and private individuals will opt for notarisation to reduce the risk of non-genuine or forged documents, and to add authenticity to a transaction. Here are the services provided by a notary public.
Documentation for international transactions
Singaporean residents and businesses may have a requirement to use certain documents abroad, these include:
- Powers of attorney
- Property purchases
- Incorporation documents
- The assignment of rights to intellectual property
A notary public can act as an official witness to ensure the documents are correctly executed, or they can be required to verify the content of the papers, and the status/identity of the signatories.
Affidavits and statutory declarations
A notary public provides services for oaths and affirmations when taking or attesting affidavits and statutory declarations.
An affidavit is a statement made under oath that a particular set of circumstances or facts are accurate. If the person making the affidavit is not of Christian belief, then the statement is made on affirmation. Affidavits are commonly used in court as witness statements.
A statutory declaration is similar to an affidavit in that it declares something to be true in connection with a regulation or legal requirement. Section 10 of the Oaths and Declarations Act details certain situations where an individual is required or may be authorised to make a statutory declaration.
Some examples in a personal context include the reasons for a change of name or applying for rent relief under the COVID-19 Rental Relief Framework. Commercially, businesses that want to file a trademark outside Singapore or declare evidence of the use of a trademark in Singapore will need to execute a statutory declaration.
Certifying true copies
A notary public can certify that a copy of a document such as a bank statement or passport is a true copy of the original. This is completed with a simple visual comparison with the original and is one of the most common reasons for an individual to use the services of a notary.
Protesting bills of exchange
A bill of exchange concerns payment from one party to another. A notary public can protest the bill if the recipient doesn’t accept payment.
A ship’s protest
A notary public can record statements on behalf of shipowners which declare that damage was not caused by their negligence but by maritime perils.
Different services and which notary public to choose
A notary public offers a wide range of services. However, they vary from one lawyer to another, so businesses and individuals should check the required process and find a notary public who fulfils that brief. The requirement for notarisation usually originates from the person or organisation receiving the documents, and/or legislation which will provide guidance.
In addition to notarisation, there are three further elements to the service a notary public may provide or advise on:
The Singapore Academy of Law or SAL must authenticate any notarised document. This is a requirement even if the document’s recipient states they don’t require it. A notary public can help with this procedure.
Legalisation is a separate process from authentication and is a requirement of some governments, but not all, so it’s not a fixed stipulation in every case. From January 2021, the legalisation process moved from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the jurisdiction of the SAL.
A notary public can advise if legalisation is required and assist with the process initiated by an online request through the legalisation portal. However, only the SAL can perform this function.
Legal translation means translating any documents to be used for a legal purpose from any language other than English into English. English is the primary language used in Singapore.
Depending on the language, individuals and businesses may need to hire a professional translator with the relevant certification. Documents from a private translator must be accompanied by an affidavit which verifies their authenticity.
Finding a notary public
Private individuals and businesses can search online for a notary public. The SAL website has a directory of legal firms that provide these services in Singapore.
Understanding the notarisation requirements is essential to finding the right notary. The SAL directory has a valuable language filter if a legal translation is part of the requirements.
Discuss how the service works and whether legalisation is also required at the SAL The document’s recipient may have laid out some specific requirements which the individual or business should share with the notary public.
An individual or business must pay for the notary public’s service and a fee to the SAL if legalisation is required.
As international transactions become increasingly common, the number of people and businesses using the services of a notary public is growing. The process, with its different options, is well-ordered, and the fee structure is transparent and easy to understand.
Not every lawyer is also a notary public, but it’s simple to find one, and most law firms advertise if they offer these services. Even if it is not a requirement to use a notary public, it is worth considering for specific documents. Notarisation provides peace of mind and supports the integrity of a legal transaction.
Frequently asked questions
What is the Apostille Convention?
The Apostille Convention, or AC, is a mechanism designed to streamline the process by which a document issued in one state that belongs to the convention can be legally certified for use in another member state. Certification under the convention is called a Hague apostille or just ‘apostille’ because the Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted the treaty. An apostille issued by the state from which the document originates certifies the document. It removes the need for further certification in the recipient country.
How much does a notary public cost?
A notary public will have a defined fee schedule for different elements of the notarisation service. A notarial execution of a document costs S$40 for one person, but there will be a further fee for any additional parties. Certifying a document as a true copy and affixing a seal is S$10 for the first page and S$2 per page for any additional pages. If a seal is not required, the rate is S$5 for the first page and S$1 for every subsequent page. A notarial certificate is S$75. The final cost will depend upon the exact procedure and should be straightforward to calculate. Authentication at the SAL has an additional fee of S$85.60.
What are the implications of not notarising a document?
If notarisation is required and a document is not notarised, then it may be unacceptable and invalid. This means the process is likely to be delayed.
What documents are necessary for notarisation?
For certification, it is necessary to bring the original document and a photocopy. If the service is for the validation of documents, then a form of identification for all the document signatories is necessary. Check this with the notary public beforehand.