ISSUES WITH THE NOTARISATION OF USA DOCUMENTS IN THE UK
DO YOU NEED TO NOTARISE A DOCUMENT FOR USE IN THE USA?
Have you been asked by a US situated party to sign documents intended
for the USA in the physical presence of a US notary in the UK?
While many Americans will use the services of notaries at some point, it is fairly rare for UK residents to use the services of a notary save where there are foreign matters to be addressed such as where they own property or assets abroad. Just like how US citizens use the notaries of their US state, those requiring notarial services in the United Kingdom will use either a notary public of England & Wales, a notary public of Scotland, or a notary public of Northern Ireland.
Unlike the USA , the United Kingdom requires all of its notaries to have a law degree (such as that of a solicitor, barrister, or another form of qualified UK lawyer), and to then take a two-year notary course in international notarisation and practice to obtain a Post Graduate Diploma in Notarial Studies, and then be able to practice as a notary. There is a huge difference in the qualifications required of an English notary public and those required of a typical US state notary public.
In the USA, the typical requirements are simply that such person is 18 years of age or older, is a legal resident of the particular US state, has no criminal convictions or felonies, and is able to read, write and understand the English language.
However, it is not uncommon where documents are required to be notarised for a USA transaction, that USA-based individuals and businesses, including US based title companies, closing agents, banks, mortgage lenders, lawyers, or other parties based in the USA, will ask the person required to sign the relevant documents to use the services of a USA notary in the UK.
The laws of most US states recognise the validity of documents notarised abroad by notaries of foreign nations but US entities often insist on requiring their clients to seek a US notary public despite it being clear that a local UK notary public would be the best way forward.
Can a UK notary public notarise documents intended for the United States?
Yes, of course they can! I am an English notary myself and can confirm that notaries appointed in England & Wales, Scotland, and/or Northern Ireland can all notarise documents for use in the United States.
There are sometimes problems arising with US parties such as US banks, mortgage lenders, pension companies, etc., who have little or no experience in dealing with notarisations abroad or the Hague Convention, and will sometimes incorrectly require that only a US notary public can perform such notarisation.
It should not be forgotten by US lenders and title insurance companies that the USA is a party to the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalization of foreign public documents and that they can seek an apostille from a foreign nation's "competent Authority" which authenticates such notarisations for purposes of US law. In the United States, the Secretary of State of each state and his or her deputies are usually the state's competent authorities. In the United Kingdom, it is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which is the relevant competent authority.
Is it possible to use the US notarisation services of a USA federally appointed notary based in the UK?
Yes, there are two limited options addressed below. However, it is not always possible to timely arrange. The two options are set out below:
(1), US Military & their Families: US federally appointed notaries who can notarise on U.S. military bases. These notarial services however are only available to resident members of the US military and their families, and:
(2), US Embassy & Consulates: US federally appointed notaries do operate in the US embassies and its consulates. Click here if you want to search if there are any available dates available. Often, such appointments may not be available for weeks or months ahead. I understand that it is best to search on such calendar on Fridays. Please note that if witnesses are required for your notarisation, you will need to bring your own witnesses (as well as documentary proof of identity).
Save for notaries in US embassies and such military notaries, there are no other notaries appointed by the US federal government to notarise abroad.
Are there then any US state-appointed notaries who are permitted under US state law to notarise documents outside of the United States?
Yes, while the standard domestic US state-appointed notary public is generally not entitled to notarise documents outside of the notary's US state, only the state of Florida has created, in addition to having its own non-lawyer notaries like all other US states, Florida has also created a unique type of lawyer-notary, known as the "Florida Civil Law Notary" or the "Florida International Notary". The creation of this new type of notary in Florida is based on civil law notaries abroad, and Florida Statute 118 and Florida Statute 695.03. The Florida Civil Law Notary has statutory authority under Florida law to notarise abroad and shall receive an apostille from the Florida department of State for such notarisations performed whether inside or outside of Florida.
Set out below is the relevant part of Florida Statute 695.03:
In cases where the US-based parties finally understand that there are very few easy options for British clients in seeking the notarisation of a US state-appointed or federally appointed notary, they may give up on seeking a US notary here in the UK, and may then insist that the UK resident arrange an appointment with the US Embassy in London, or even better, to finally agree to use an English notary public local to the client.
Most Americans seem to believe everyone in the UK lives in or around London, when clearly such is not the case. Many of my busy British clients and UK resident American clients throughout the UK who live far from my office are put under great stress in being required in US transactions to travel to London to attend the US embassy for a notarisation. Attending the US embassy for most of my clients takes many hours in travel and attending the appointment. So why are they put through this rather than simply permitted to see a UK notary public local to them?
I don't believe that there is any good reason for US parties to require those seeking a notarisation of US documents to so often be required to travel to the US embassy if they don't live anywhere near London or a consulate actually providing notarisations. It is clear that further to the Hague Convention that the notarisation by a UK notary public is acceptable, and it is best to have the notarisation performed locally. A UK apostille, if required following the notarisation, could easily be ordered from the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office and forwarded by the notary or client back to the United States.
If the situation were reversed and an American citizen resident in the USA was purchasing a property in England, would it not seem an unfair burden to require him or her to travel many hours away to meet with a "UK notary" at one of the few UK consulates in the USA. Surely it must be clear to Americans that it is not right to deny British citizens the ability to see a local UK notary public? Notwithstanding this, US entities (especially mortgage lenders) very often insist that UK citizens resident in the UK travel by car or plane for many hours to the US Embassy in London, or the consulates in Edinburgh or Belfast.
3. ATTENTION US CLOSING AGENTS: Beware of relying on using someone in the UK who is not in fact a notary public. Some solicitors in the UK unfortunately may seek to notarise documents mistakenly believing they are entitled to do so.
If you are buying property from a foreign seller, or if you are a title closing agents, pay attention. Despite what might be stated on the website of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office about it being willing to issue an apostille for the signatures of both solicitors and notaries, the signature of a solicitor is only acceptable in Commonwealth nations and does not constitute a notarisation. If you are looking for a notarisation, do not rely on the signature of someone who is not in fact a UK notary. I have represented UK purchasers of Florida property purchases where Florida title closing agents permitted a UK resident seller to sign a warranty deed in the presence of a solicitor. In one case the solicitor incorrectly maintained to the Florida title closing agents that there were no notaries in England & Wales. He was of course wrong.
Are there any US state appointed notaries who are permitted to notarise documents in the United Kingdom?
Yes, only the state of Florida has civil law notaries who are lawyers experienced in international matters and who have passed exams to become a member of the National Association of Civil Law Notaries (NACLN), . Of the two states, Florida is the only state which (through the Florida Department of State) has appointed its civil law notaries (or Florida International Notaries) to operate outside of its borders and indeed outside the borders of the United States.
What are my options if I am required to see a US notary in the UK?
Some US parties such as US mortgage lenders, or other parties, have unilaterally chosen not to accept mortgage or other documents notarised by a "foreign" notary and may require UK residents to seek a US notary notwithstanding the clear language of the Hague Convention (to which the USA is a party) and regardless of the fact under the laws of most US states a non-US notary's notarisation may often be valid. Where you have been informed you must use a US notary, you should always first ask the party requesting this to check the particular US state's statutory provision relating to the notarisation of documents abroad to determine whether you may in fact use a domestic Notary Public, who will be well-equipped to assist you.
If they however insist on you using a US notary, you normally have few choices. You may be told to attend the US Embassy in London, the US consulate in Edinburgh, the US Embassy in Ireland or in the worst situation to actually fly to the USA just to see a notary there. The notarial services at the US Embassy in London are not always available and the Embassy closed down such services for a number of weeks at least twice last year. The US Embassy in London normally has about 17 or more days of a wait time. Very of If you are completing or "closing" on a US property purchase there may not be time.
As the only Florida civil law notary in the UK, I, Kevin Michael Burke, would be happy to assist in the notarisation of US documents. To the extent that the documents are intended for use in the state of Florida, there is normally no issue with Florida parties however one particular US mortgage lender, BBVA Compass Bank, have changed their policies and have chosen to reject all notarisations from outside the USA, save with exception where they might permit you to see a notary at the US Embassy.
To the extent the documents are to do with notarisation of documents for use in a state other than Florida, you would first need to obtain confirmation from the US entities requiring the documents as to whether they will accept the notarisation of a Florida civil law notary. Please click on notarial authority above for more information as to the grounds on which a Florida civil law notary is authorised by the state of Florida to notarise outside of the USA.
To the extent the US documents are to do with the filing of a W-7 form (seeking an individual tax identification number (ITIN)), I cannot help in my capacity as a Florida civil law notary but can in my capacity as an English notary public. With the W-7 form and proof of exceptions you can fortunately use a domestic notary so long as you obtain an apostille from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this instance.
So when are you available?
From offices in Wrington, Bristol, I, Kevin Michael Burke, practice as both a Florida civil law notary and English notary public and would be pleased to assist you in either capacity in your own notarial matters. I am normally available for appointments between 9am and 5pm Monday to Fridays but appointments can be made in advance for later or occasionally on the weekends. So that you do not make a visit to his office when he is not available please telephone (01934 837280) in advance for an appointment.
I normally see clients at my office in Wrington. Where commercial or private clients are unable to come to this office because of schedules, disability or for other special reason, arrangements may be made to see them in their offices or business premises, or at another convenient meeting place. In such cases, the relevant documents may need to be stamped and recorded upon my return to the office following which these shall be returned to you.
If you require US notarial services, we are happy to help. We provide a full range of fast, efficient and friendly notarial services for private and commercial clients.
For further information call us at 01934 837280 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Please note that our services provided as an English notary public are very different from the service we provide as a commissioner of oaths in England & Wales.
Generally, the amount of work performed in acting as a commissioner of oaths in England & Wales in taking an oath is far less complex and time-consuming than is the case where a notarisation is required.
Please note that where you need documents to be recognised and effective abroad, then it is a notarisation which is to be performed. Please note that If you need to send a document to be notarised in Australia or New Zealand or elsewhere in the Commonwealth, please note that the certification of a commissioner for oaths is generally not the equivalent of a notarised document and will likely be rejected in the United Kingdom.
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