Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can a Justice of the Peace perform the functions of a notary public?

No. The training and experience of a notary public is that of a senior lawyer, capable of giving opinions on matters of law. Justices of the Peace cannot do this.
Most overseas countries do not recognise the authority of a Justice of the Peace to witness documents.

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Q2. Can anyone become a notary?

No. In South Australia, only experienced lawyers, who have undertaken special studies as a notary and are of high standing are eligible for appointment as notaries. Only a small number of lawyers in Adelaide have been appointed.

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Q3. Why do I have to see a notary as well as going to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to get my document ready to send overseas?

Most countries follow the procedures set out in the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (often called the Hague Apostille Convention). The steps are:

  1. Sign and complete the document in the presence of a notary.
  2. Present the document to the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade to get an apostille, and pay the fee. There is an office in Adelaide
  3. Send the finished document to the destination country.
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Q4. What is an apostille?

‘Apostille’ is French for a ‘footnote’. France co-sponsored the Hague Apostille Convention (see Q3 above), thus its terminology was adopted.

An apostille is affixed by the relevant authority in a country which has acceded to that convention, either by a rubber stamp, verified by an authorised person and sealed with an official seal, or by attaching a separate certificate.

An apostille certifies that the notary or government authority which issued the document is indeed authorised to do so. It does not bear any relation to the content of the document, and does not of itself confer any validity on it.

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Q5. Do I have to pay fees to a notary for the notarial services?

Yes. Notaries are highly trained professional lawyers, and they are entitled to charge fees for their professional time spent.

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Q6. Are there any documents which I do not have to take to a notary before I send them overseas?

Yes. Official documents such as birth, death and marriage certificates, issued by the appropriate government department, can be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade directly, without a notarial certificate, for many countries.

In order to be sure of this, it is wise to verify the requirements of the destination country first, especially if the country is not a party to the Hague Apostille Convention. In case of doubt, you need to contact either the country’s nearest consulate or its embassy in Canberra.

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Q7. What is the notary’s role?

The notary is a public official (as defined in the Hague Apostille Convention), whose intervention in the document or other activity is required by the law of the destination country.

Most countries of the world are not Common Law countries. The major Common Law countries are Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States of America, parts of Canada, India, South Africa and some former colonies of those countries, such as the Philippines.

Almost all of the rest of the world has either a Communist system, a post-Communist system or, much more importantly, a Civil Law System. In Civil Law Systems, which exist in most of Europe and the whole of South America, the intervention of a notary is essential to many transactions, including land registration, company incorporation, administration of deceased estates and making certain types of wills. For this reason, documents required in those countries and which touch on any of the areas of notarial responsibility, must also involve a notary here.

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Q8. Do I have to complete foreign documents in the foreign language?

Notarial certificates in English will be adequate for the majority of countries.

However for some countries, a translation of the notarial certificate will be required. In those cases, it may be significantly cheaper if the notary has been able to give you his certificate in the foreign language.  Contact the Embassy to find out if there is Notary in Adelaide who speaks that language.

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Q9. Can a South Australian notary simply sign or witness a document from overseas?

Sometimes, documents are in a form which is ready for completion. Typically, such documents come from English-speaking countries, or members of the former British Commonwealth. They include New Zealand, India, South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia.

However it is common for many other countries to send a draft document which requires extensive redrafting if it is to be complete and acceptable in that country when sent back. This is especially true of Civil Law countries, which include all of Europe and South America, parts of Canada and Louisiana (USA). Often these documents are called ‘minutes’.

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Q10. Are notarial requirements always the same for all countries?

No, requirements vary widely, and this may lead to costs also varying significantly from country to country.

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Q11. What is an authentication stamp?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has created a stamp called an authentication stamp for use in connection with countries which have not acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention. It is a low-level certification which is useful for some countries which require governmental reassurance, with whom we have regular transactions, such as China, Chile and the United Arab Emirates.

The authentication stamp has no legislative foundation, and has no legal effect, and cannot be substituted for the apostille.

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Q12. When do I have to submit documents to the consulate of a country for legalisation?

You never have to submit documents to a country which has acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention. Once you have fulfilled the steps set out in Answer 3 above, the document is ready to be sent to the destination country.

It sometimes takes a while for old practices to disappear. For example, when a country joins the convention, many of its nationals may not be aware of the change, and continue to seek consular involvement.

Once a country has acceded to the Convention, its consulates no longer have authority to legalise documents (or to charge fees for doing so).

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Q13. Where do I find contact details for Embassies in Australia and Consulates in Adelaide?

For a list of Embassies in Australia visit

Consulates in Adelaide

Belgium 8 Elizabeth Street, Norwood SA 5037 (08) 8362 9110
Bolivia 23 Nitschke Street, Elizabeth Grove SA 5112 (08) 8255 9744
Czech Republic 70 Northumberland St, Tusmore SA 5065 (08) 8331 0286
Ecuador 44 McClure Ave, Reynella SA 5161 (08) 8387 2727
Fiji 46 Woodend Rd, Sheidow Park SA 5158 (08) 8387 7736
Finland Level 1, 18-20 Grenfell St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8211 7771
France Dulwich SA 5000 (08) 8431 3385
Germany 23 Peel St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8231 6320
Great Britain 444 Pultney St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8239 1577
Greece 300 Flinders St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8232 2036
Hungary PO Box 781, Kent Town SA 5071 (08) 8431 0022
Indonesia 12 Boomerang Cres, Aldgate SA 5154 (08) 8274 0292
Israel Level 1, 25 Peel St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8221 7004
Italy 262A Carrington St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8232 4022
Japan 29 Winham Ave, Rynella SA 5161 (08) 8381 6047
Latvia 648 South Rd, Glandore SA 5037 (08) 8293 1330
Lebanon U1/459 Morphett St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8231 8922
Malaysia 46 Watson Ave, Rose Park SA 5067 (08) 8331 0866
Malta 12 Camroc Ave, Prospect SA 5082 (08) 8269 2948
Mauritius 124 Lipson St, Port Adelaide SA 5015 (08) 8341 0477
Netherlands Level 1, 139 Frome St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8232 3855
Netherlands Level 1, 139 Frome St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8232 3855
Norway 19 Bennet Ave, Melrose Park SA 5039 (08) 3229 0492
Portugal 25 Peel St, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8110 0999
South Africa PO Box 186, Enfield Plaza SA 5085 (08) 8139 7330
Spain 19 Menkens St, Fulham Gardens SA 5024 (08) 8353 1469
Sri Lanka 236 Glynburn Rd, Tranmere SA 5073 (08) 8331 2318
Sweden 55 Jerningham St, North Adelaide SA 5006 (08) 8239 1577
Switzerland 64 Castle St, Parkside SA 5063 (08) 8271 8854
Thailand Level 6, 185 Victoria Sq, Adelaide SA 5000 (08) 8218 4848
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I acknowledge that this set of Frequently Asked Questions is based on the list prepared by
The Society of Notaries of Victoria Inc.

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