Legalising documents

The law in most countries requires that a signature on a document be witnessed or other procedures applied before the document can be used for legal purposes or in a court of law. Solicitors, justices of the peace, and notaries public normally perform these functions in Australia, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) may also be authorised to do so.

DFAT provides notarial services, or the legalisation of documents, to Australians, or people planning to use documents in Australia, through its State/Territory offices in Australia and its diplomatic missions overseas.

Notarial services

Notarial services provided within Australia

Within Australia, most notarial services (including witnessing and certifying of documents) are provided by notaries public. Locations and contact details for notaries public in Australia are available from the Law Society of each State or Territory or from the Notary Locator website.

However, as part of DFAT's role as the local authority for a number of international conventions, its State and Territory offices provide the following notarial services:

  • Authentications
  • Apostilles
  • Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage
  • Binding Documents (limited to documents presented for Authentication/Apostille)

These services are only for Australians or for cases where the documents are Australian in origin or for use in, or requested by, Australia.

Notarial services provided overseas

As part of its support role for Australians overseas, DFAT provides notarial services at Australian Embassies, High Commissions, Representative Offices and Consulates.

Notarial services are not available at Australian Consulates headed by Honorary Consuls.

Notarial services include:

  • Authentications
  • Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage
  • Certifying Copies of original documents
  • Witnessing Signatures on certain documents
  • Affidavits, Oaths and Affirmations
  • Binding documents presented for Authentication

These services are provided for Australians overseas, but services can be provided for others where the documents are required for use in Australia.

Authenticating documents for use overseas (including Apostilles)

Overseas authorities will often request that you have your Australian documents (for example a birth certificate) ‘authenticated’ or ‘apostilled’. It is vital that you confirm the exact notarial service requirements before having documents processed at an Australian mission. Unfortunately, clients have often requested incorrect, unnecessary or additional notarial services from Australian embassies overseas because they did not fully understand the requirements of the notarial service required.

One of the notarial services we provide is an Authentication, which is when we verify a signature, stamp or seal on certain types of Australian documents. Once verified, we stamp and sign the document confirming that we have verified the signature or seal on the document.

Another similar service we provide is an Apostille. This is only provided through DFAT offices in Australia. Apostilles are basically authentications but are only used in some countries. The countries that you may be asked to Apostille your document can be found at the Hague Conference on Private International Law website.

Authentications and Apostilles are legal processes and we will only issue stamps once we are satisfied the document is genuine and will not be used for a fraudulent purpose. Cases of attempted fraud in the past mean that we need to be cautious about issuing an Authentication or Apostille.

What documents do I need to Authenticate/Apostille?

Please check with the government of the country concerned to find out which documents (if any) you need to have Authenticated/Apostilled. This advice can only be provided by the organisation you are dealing with, Australian Embassies do not have knowledge of the different requirements in different countries.

Examples may include educational certificates from Australian institutions; birth, death or marriage certificates; powers of attorney and other legal documents; medical certificates.

Which stamp do I need? An Authentication or an Apostille?

That depends on the country you are dealing with. This advice can only be provided by the overseas government you are dealing with, or with those countries that have embassies and/or consulates in Australia.

  • Apostille — as a general rule, countries that are party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents require an Apostille on documents that qualify as Australian public documents. A full list of countries that are party to this convention can be found at the Hague Conference on Private International Law website.
  • Authentication — documents going to countries that are not party to the Hague Convention generally require an Authentication. These countries include China, Vietnam and most of the Middle East.

How do I get an Authentication or Apostille?

You need to provide us with:

  • original documents issued by Australian Government Departments with an official signature, seal or stamp; or
  • notarised documents - ie, documents signed and sealed by a Notary Public

We can stamp any official Australian Government document that has an original signature, stamp or seal on it (for example, an original document from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages).

If the document is not government issued (such as legal documents or medical certificates) it must be notarised by an Australian Notary Public before you bring it to us. Notaries are senior legal practitioners who authenticate, prepare, attest, witness and certify original and copied legal documents for use overseas. In Western Australia, documents to be authenticated can be certified by Australian Notaries Public, Western Australian Justices of the Peace and Federal, State or Local Government officials if the document is issued by their agency.

For business documents

All business documents must be notarised or certified by the relevant chamber of commerce/industry or notarised by an Australian Notary Public.

For marriage certificates

Marriage certificates must be issued by the Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages.

For all education documents

Due to the increased risk of fraud, the following procedures must be followed in order for an education document to be authenticated by an Australian diplomatic/consular mission:

  • Only education documents issued by an Australian education institution can be authenticated. Authentication of education documents issued by non-Australian institutions must be pursued through authorities in the country in question.
  • The Australian diplomatic/consular mission must be able to verify the identity and status of the Australian education institution before proceeding with the authentication of the document.
  • All Australian education documents must be certified by the central Student Administration office of the issuing institution as a 'true and accurate record' before the document can be authenticated. In the event that the relevant institution does not provide this service, the document must be notarised by an Australian Notary Public.
  • Only after this certification or notarisation has been received, may the Australian diplomatic/consular mission authenticate a tertiary education document.

For translated documents

Translated documents must either be notarised by an Australian Notary Public, or have been translated and signed/stamped by the accredited translating service - the National Authority for Accredited Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). If you are dealing with a private translation company, please ensure the translator signs the document and that they include their NAATI details.

Where can I get an Apostille?

An Apostille may be obtained from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade state or territory offices in Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Perth and Brisbane and the Australian Passport Offices in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Newcastle.

If you can't get to an office, check with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in your state or territory about how to send the document and how it will be returned to you, as well as what fees are applicable.

Where do I get an Authentication?

An Authentication may be obtained in Australia from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade state or territory offices and overseas from Australian Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates and/or Consulate-General's offices. Please note, Honorary Consuls can not issue authentications.

Binding

Binding services are available in conjunction with the provision of another notarial service (e.g. as part of the provision of an Authentication or Apostille (in Australia). If you need your document bound with a ribbon and seal, the document must be signed on every page by the person whose signature we are authenticating (ie. a bound document must carry the same signature of the same Australian Notary Public or Government Official on every page).

You may wish to have your document bound by an Australian Notary Public instead before you bring it to us for the Apostille or Authentication.

Please check with the receiving country if they will accept a Notary Public's binding.

See our fees section below for binding costs.

If you can't get to an office, check with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in your state or territory about how to send the document and how it will be returned to you, as well as what fees are applicable.

Affidavits

What is an Affidavit?

An affidavit is a written statement that allows the person making it to present evidence in court or other legal proceedings. The person making the affidavit must take an oath (a sworn commitment based on religious belief) - or make an affirmation (a secular sworn commitment) - that the contents of the affidavit are true and correct. It is generally an offence to swear to or affirm false information.

DFAT's role is to witness the affidavit and administer the oath or affirmation.

How can I get an Affidavit?

The precise form that an affidavit is to take is dictated by the relevant Commonwealth, state or territory legislation under which the affidavit is made or the proceedings in which the evidence contained in it is to be relied on. An affidavit that has not been drawn up correctly may not be legally effective. It is the your responsibility to provide the document/s in the correct form and to provide any additional witnessing/administering instructions. DFAT takes no responsibility for the correctness of the form of an affidavit.

Please contact your nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission, Consulate and/or Consulate-General's office to arrange a suitable time to deliver the relevant documents and instructions. Documents cannot be mailed in.

Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI)

The Attorney-General has announced that from 1 February 2012 Australians seeking to enter into a same-sex marriage overseas will be able to apply for a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage.

What is a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage?

Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage are issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through Australian Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates and/or Consulate-General's offices and Australian State and Territory offices to Australians seeking to marry overseas. The laws of some countries require that before a foreigner may marry within their jurisdiction they must produce a certificate issued by the authorities of the country to which they belong stating that those authorities do not know of any impediment to the marriage. Such a certificate is known as a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) or in some countries as a Nulla Osta Certificate. CNI's are not a requirement of Australian law. They are issued purely at the request of overseas countries and provide a certificate stating that the authorities (in this case DFAT) do not know of any impediment to the marriage.

How to get a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage?

CNIs can be issued overseas, at Relevant Overseas Missions and DFAT offices within Australia. Download the form from our marriage page, fill it in, have it witnessed by a qualified witness (as listed on the application form) and present it at your nearest DFAT office.

Some countries require the certificate to be issued by the Australian Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Consulate-General's office in the country in which the marriage is taking place and will not accept a CNI issued in Australia.

Documents cannot be mailed in if the certificate is to be used in Poland, Portugal or Turkey.

Certifying copies of original documents

How to get a certified copy of an original document?

Take your original documents and instructions to you closest Australian Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Consulate-General's office. Contact details, and operating hours for consular services of each overseas mission are available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website and in our travel advisories.

DFAT staff will photocopy the relevant documents, stamp the documents with the following certificate "This is a true copy of the document presented to me" and sign the certificate. If a different form of words is required, the document may need to be certified by a Notary Public or the body from which the document originated.

Some jurisdictions allow only the originator of official documents to certify copies of those documents.

Witnessing signatures

Why is it necessary to have a signature witnessed?

The law often requires that a signature on a document be witnessed or authenticated before the document can be relied on legally. Solicitors, Justices of the Peace, and Notaries Public perform such functions within Australia, but consular officers at Australian Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates and Consulate-General's offices are empowered to do this as well.

How to get a signature witnessed?

The precise requirements for the effective witnessing of a document are dictated by the jurisdiction in which the document is to be relied. It is up to you to check the other jurisdiction's requirements before bringing the documents to a Australian mission for witnessing. It is the your responsibility to present the document to be witnessed in the correct form and to provide the correct instructions for witnessing.

DFAT staff don't have the authority to provide legal advice, to draw up legal documents or to guarantee the legal effectiveness of documents they witness.

Mailing documents to us

Do documents have to be brought in or can I mail them?

Documents requiring certification, Apostille or Authentication can be mailed to the relevant DFAT office/s along with the correct payment. Any documents that require witnessing of signatures cannot be mailed in and must be presented in person.

Requirements for mailing in documents:

When mailing documents to DFAT you need to send:

  • The original document with the relevant signature/stamp/seal affixed. For multi-page documents that a client wants to have bound by an Australian Consular Official, each page of the document must have the certifying signature/stamp/seal affixed.
  • Payment - In Australia: In Australian Dollars only via Money Order, Bank Cheque or credit card. (Personal, Trust and Company cheques/American Express/Diners Club are not accepted).
  • Payment - Overseas: in local currency equivalent of Australian fee.
  • Your contact details and detail of the country/s where the document is to be used.

Documents that are mailed without the correct payment will be returned unprocessed by normal post (unless a pre-paid stamped express/registered post return envelope is provided).

Returning Documents

DFAT will normally return documents by regular mail. If you require a document to be returned by express or registered post you must provide a pre-paid stamped express/registered post envelope when submitting that document.

Please check State and Territory office websites for mailing addresses and other contact details.

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra Passport Office
Postal address: Canberra Passport Office, c/o Authentications Officer, GPO Box 9807, Canberra, ACT, 0221
Telephone: 02 6261 3644
Email: consular.feedback@dfat.gov.au
Office hours: Mon-Fri 9:30-12:30 No appointment required

Queensland

Queensland State Office, Brisbane

New South Wales

Sydney Passport Office

Northern Territory

Northern Territory Office, Darwin

South Australia:

South Australia State Office, Adelaide

Tasmania

Tasmania State Office, Hobart

Victoria

Melbourne Passport Office

Western Australia

Western Australia State Office, Perth

Fees

The Consular Fees Act of 1955 sets out the level of fees to be charged for the performance of various notarial acts by DFAT.

  • Apostilles -$60 per Apostille on a single sided document (note, no additional fee is charged for any initialling associated within the relevant document)
  • Authentications -$20 per one page single sided document (note, no additional fee is charged for any initialling associated within the relevant document)
  • Affidavit, Administering an Oath - $20 see above
  • Binding - $20 - per binding
  • Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage - $90 for issuing of a certificate and no additional fees for witnessing signatures related to the CNI.
  • Certifying a copy of an original document - $30 per document or part of a document
  • Witnessing Signatures - $20 per signature (No additional fee is charged for any initialling required as part of the witnessing process)

How can I pay?

  • In Australia — all payments must be in Australian dollars. Accepted payment types are money order, bank cheque or credit card. If paying by credit card, please ensure you complete the credit card authrisation section on your notarial request form (available on state and territory office websites). Personal, trust and company cheques/American Express/Diners Club are not accepted.
  • Overseas — payments should be in the local currency equivalent of Australian fee. Please contact your nearest overseas mission for current consular fees and methods of payment.