Confirming personal identity for overseas legal documents

Verifying your identity for overseas use

As a busy legal practice with clients overseas, one of our biggest challenges is ensuring that our clients sign (and we can prove that they have signed) legal documents in a way that will be valid in Australia. Generally, we will direct our clients to verify their identity by signing those legal documents in front of a public notary in their current resident country.

The role of a public notary is like an ‘international justice of the peace’, and accordingly, a public notary will often be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the person named in the legal documents or the person supposed to sign those legal documents is the person who has signed them. Certification by a public notary is a widely accepted form of proof recognised by most countries around the world.

In the same way, if you are in Australia but you need to sign legal documents intended for another country, you should probably be signing those legal documents in front of a public notary in Australia – or as otherwise directed by your lawyer in that country as to what is considered legally valid or acceptable.

Whenever clients ask us to witness their signature on legal documents intended to be used overseas, we will witness their signature and verify their identity according to their photograph identification – generally either their passport or their Australian drivers licence. If the legal documents that they are signing refer to a specific identification document, then we ask our clients to bring that specific identification document as well.

Aside from us witnessing our client’s signature and signing and sealing (notarising) the legal documents, some legal documents must also be authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or stamped with an apostille, or authenticated by the relevant foreign office of the intended destination country.