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Notarial and Authentication Services of U.S. Consular Officers Abroad

DISCLAIMER: The information in this circular is provided for general information only.  For questions concerning admissibility of documents executed abroad see appropriate federal and state statutes.  Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign counsel.

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How do you get a document notarized overseas?

Notarizing officers at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad can provide a service similar to the functions of a notary public in the United States. It is also possible to have a document notarized by a local foreign notary and then have the document authenticated for use in the United States.  In countries that are party to the Hague Apostille Convention, this is a simplified process.

What is the legal authority for consular performance of notarial and authentication services?

Notarial and authentication services are one of the oldest traditional consular functions dating back to Statute I, Session I, Chapter 24 of April 14, 1792, "An Act Concerning Consuls and Vice Consuls". See 22 U.S.C. 4215; 2 U.S.C. 4221; Rule 44(a)(2) FRCvP, 28 U.S.C. Appendix; Rule 902(3) FREv, 28 U.S.C. Appendix; 28 U.S.C. 1740; 1741; 22 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 92.2 et seq. Only persons who designated as a "notarizing officer" may notarize documents at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. See 22 C.F.R. 92.1(d). The term "notarizing officer" at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate includes consular officers, officers of the Foreign Service who are Secretaries of Embassy or Legation under 22 U.S.C. 4221 and such U.S. citizen employees as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Overseas Citizens Services may designate for the purpose of performing notarial acts overseas.

Is there a treaty authority permitting consular officers to perform notarial and authentication services abroad?

Notarial functions of consuls are included in the earliest treaties dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In modern times, Article 5(f) of the multilateral Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, 21 U.S.T. 77, authorizes consular officers to perform notarial functions. Bilateral consular conventions frequently include similar provisions.

How do the notarial functions of U.S. Notarizing officers differ from those of a U.S. Notary public?

Notarizing officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates require the personal appearance of the person requesting the notarial service; establish the identity of the person requesting the service; establish that the person understands the nature, language and consequences of the document to be notarized; and establish that the person is not acting under duress. (22 C.F.R. 92.31). In addition, the notarizing officer must be satisfied that the act does not come within the purview of the regulatory bases for refusal to provide the notarial service set forth at 22 C.F.R. 92.9. This requires that the notarizing officer be generally familiar with the laws of the foreign country, U.S. law, and treaty obligations, or consult the Department of State when a matter is in doubt. In addition to the usual functions of notaries related to oaths, affidavits and acknowledgments, most notarizing officers may authenticate documents, a governmental act which is not performed by notaries in the United States.  Note that not all notarizing officers are authorized to authenticate documents.

What is the basis for a notarizing officer to refuse to provide a notarial or authentication service?

Refusal of notarial and authentication services by notarizing officers can only be done under limited circumstances. (22 CFR 92.9, 92.10). Bases for refusal include (a) acts not authorized by treaty or permitted by laws of foreign country; (b) acts prohibited by laws or regulations of the U.S. (such as regulations promulgated pursuant to the Trading With the Enemy Act or successor statutes); or (c) if the notarizing officer believes that the document will be used for a purpose patently unlawful, improper or inimical to the best interests of the United States.

Do U.S. Embassies and Consulates provide notarial and authentication services for non-U.S. Citizens?

Yes. 22 C.F.R. 92.4(b) provides that these services may be performed for any person regardless of nationality so long as the document in connection with which the notarial/authentication service is required is for use within the jurisdiction of the United States.

What are the hours of operation for notarial services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates?

Contact the Consular Section, American Citizens Services of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in advance to determine the hours of operation for notarial/authentication services. Hours may vary for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. The telephone numbers and addresses of U.S. Embassies and Consulates at travel.state.gov.

What are some examples of notarial/authentication acts?

Acknowledgment: To "acknowledge" is to admit, affirm, or declare; to recognize one's acts, assuming obligation or incurring responsibility. For example, if you sign a deed before a notarizing officer, you acknowledge your signature.

Oath: Any form of an attestation by which a person signifies that he or she is bound in conscience to perform an act faithfully and truthfully. A person who intentionally makes false statements under oath before a U.S. notarizing officer is punishable for perjury (22 U.S.C. 4221).

Affirmation: A solemn and formal declaration that an affidavit is true, that the witness will tell the truth, etc.

Affidavit: A written or printed declaration or statement of facts, made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the person making it, taken before an officer having authority to administer such an oath.

Attestation: The act of witnessing an instrument in writing, at the request of the party executing the document, and subscribing it as a witness.

Corporate Acknowledgment: Officials of corporations who desire to execute an instrument in their capacity as corporate officials before a consular notarizing officer must present adequate proof of their corporate identity.

What is authentication?

An authentication is the placing of the consular seal over the seal of a foreign authority whose seal and signature is on file with the American Embassy or Consulate. A consular authentication in no way attests to the authenticity of the contents of a document but merely to the seal and signature of the issuing authority.

What is an "Apostille"?

The name of the authentication certification provided for under the Hague Apostille Convention, a multilateral treaty to which the United States is a party.

What is the legal authority for members of the armed services to perform notarial acts abroad?

See 10 U.S.C. 936 (Article 136 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the respective Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and the foreign country in question. These services are limited to persons coming within the jurisdiction of the U.S. military base abroad, and are not available for the traveling public.

How can a U.S. citizen become a notary public in a foreign country?

The procedures for becoming a notary public vary from country to country, and may require that the individual be a citizen of the foreign country. Specific questions may be addressed to the Embassy of the foreign country in Washington, D.C.

What fees are charged for consular notarial and authentication services abroad?

Effective July 13, 2010 there is a $50.00 fee for each notarial service. Also effective July 13, 2010, there is a $50.00 fee for each authentication service provided by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Fees may be paid in cash or by certified check or money order. No personal checks are accepted. Certified checks or money orders should be made payable to the American Embassy or Consulate. (For example, American Embassy Kingston.)

Can a notarizing officer's seal be further authenticated?

Yes, the Department of State's Authentication Office can authenticate the seal of a notarizing officer. The Authentication Office is located at 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-5002; 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from 8 a.m. to 12 noon Monday-Friday, except holidays. The fee for this service is currently $8.00.

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