[yin yang]


Terms of use


What is a notary public?

Notarial practice

Authentication of the notarial act

"Public documents" under the Apostille Convention


"My commission expires ..."

When a notary will decline to intervene

Affidavits, declarations and other documents

Copies of academic and education credentials

Foreign language documents

International wills

The origins of the notary's seal

About me

David Thomas Banner

3, Sussex Terrace, Hawthorn, South Australia 5062
Telephone: 0435 588 775
(International: + 61 435 588 775)


Notaries are often asked to intervene in relation to documents from a foreign jurisdiction which are written in a foreign language. Such documents present particular challenges unless the notary is conversant with the relevant foreign law and able to read and understand the relevant foreign language. Further challenges arise if the appearer is fluent in the relevant foreign language, but not in English.

The notary must carefully observe the following principles:
Therefore, it will be important for the appearer to produce to the notary detailed written instructions from the foreign jurisdiction, so the notary may know precisely what is required.

I am neither fluent nor literate in any language other than English. I will therefore usually require that any foreign language document presented to me for notarial intervention be translated by a NAATI-certified translator who is competent to translate a document of the type concerned. This means competent not only to translate the language, but also to translate the legal or other technical terminology so that the legal or other effect of the language is made clear. The translation should be accompanied by the translator's sworn affidavit stating his/her qualifications and certifying the accuracy of the translation.

Pro forma foreign language notarial certificates, drafted in foreign jurisdictions, are sometimes provided with the genuine intention of aiding the process of notarial certification in Australia. However, I can never complete, or sign, or seal such a certificate, even if it is accompanied by a purported English translation.

Dual-language documents from a foreign jurisdiction (foreign language and English, usually in columns side by side) are sometimes presented for notarial intervention. In such documents, the foreign language version is considered the definitive version and the appearer will ordinarily be taken to have signed the foreign language version and not the English version. Therefore, if the English version is later found to be an inaccurate translation, the appearer may have no recourse. An appearer with a dual-language document should therefore consider seriously whether the document should be checked by a competent professional translator before it is signed.

When a dual-language document is presented to me, it is likely that, if I can intervene at all, I will have to qualify my notarial certificate by clearly stating the language competencies of the appearer and me and making clear which language version of the document has been read, understood and signed by the appearer.

The safest course, for any appearer who seeks notarial intervention in respect of a foreign language document, is to approach a notary who is fluent and literate in the language concerned and, desirably, is acquainted with the legal system of the country concerned. This will not always be possible in Adelaide, so the last resort may be the country's embassy or nearest consulate.