I, Kevin Michael Burke, am an English notary public. I practised as an English solicitor for 11 years (1999 to 2010). Many prospective clients have never used the services of an English notary public and are not familiar with the process and terminology. I will seek to provide what you need to know below.
It is the main role of a UK notary to certify or authenticate documents for use abroad. Solicitors are not authorised to perform the services of notaries and documents they seek to notarise are rejected.
Please note that notarisation must be done in person and cannot be done through the use of Zoom or through other online means.
It is the main role of a UK notary to certify or authenticate documents for use abroad. It may seem obvious to some, but you need to use the services of a notary in order to have documents notarised. If you have been told that you need to have a document "notarised", you should not use the services of a solicitor, commissioner of oaths, or other such person. Notarisation cannot be carried out by any lawyer other than a notary. Be aware that someone who is solely a solicitor cannot notarise documents.
The easiest way to confirm whether someone is in fact a English Notary Public is to perform an online search confirming such person's appointment as a notary public through either the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury or alternatively through The Notaries Society. It is very important to ensure that in fact a notary public is used.
Please note that while most of our notary appointments are generally made in advance, it is not always necessary to do so. Many of our notarisation appointments are made on the same day as the notarisation. Although it may take less time, we generally seek to try to set aside one-hour slots for notary appointments beginning at 10:00 am through to 13:00 pm and then starting again at 2:30 pm until 4:30 pm. Please telephone or mail our office to confirm what time slot is wanted. We can often offer weekend morning appointments as I do not live very far from my office.
If the matter requires notarisation of many documents, requires consular legalisation, requires notarisation of complex matters, requires us to search for online company records in the UK or foreign nations, seeks the notary’s independent confirmation independent verification of academic degrees, qualifications, or diplomas, etc., we may need more time to carry out the required work and will seek to provide an estimate of the time required.
When we take on a new client (or an existing client whom we have not acted for in the past three years), the first 10 to 15 minutes of the appointment or so are normally spent by the notary in the required admin work of providing and explaining our terms of business, obtaining your signature on such terms, entering client names, addresses, and contact details on our online systems and/or Notarial Register formpaper records. Under these circumstances, we need you to provide:
(a), your current photo driving licence or passport, and
(b), an original utility bill or bank statement, original HMRC letter, NHS letter (not being a photocopy nor a printed copy off the internet), and bearing a date which is no more than three months old.
The notary may need to check the instructions of the requesting party as to whether they have any requirements from the requesting party at the document's ultimate destination. It may be necessary to telephone or email the receiving party to confirm any unusual requests in the instructions or in the documents to be notarised. It may be that some language or addresses may need to be changed.
Certain language to be added, whether the documents are to be bound, whether there are specific written instructions from the requesting party, whether an apostille is required (sometimes receiving parties may request proof that the notary is authorised to act as a notary). Entries are then made on our bookkeeping and notarial register of our time spent and an invoice is prepared and provided to the client.
Please note that we do not charge on the basis of the number of documents nor the number of pages in the document(s). Often a huge document may only require one or two witnesses, few places where notarisation is required, and can be done fairly quickly. In other cases a one or two-page document may have numerous requirements, witnesses, and arising legal issues. If the destination nation is China or Russia, the document may require ribboning of documents.
Our fee is calculated based on time spent at £215 per hour or part thereof actually spent, with a minimum fee of £75. If the time spent by the notary in the notarisation is 20 minutes or less, the fee will be £75. If the time spent is one half-hour, the fee would be £107.50. We do not charge VAT.
To confirm the license to practice of an English Notary Public, you can go online to the website of the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of the Canterbury at https://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/notaries/find-a-notary For example, you can perform an online search for myself, Kevin Michael Burke, at BS40 5NU to confirm my current appointment as a notary public with the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Where the person appearing before the notary is signing in the capacity of a company director or officer, trustee, or any similar position, or academic degrees are required to be notarised, proof of such office may need to be found independently by the notary whether through the UK’s Companies House, another nation’s or state’s corporations directory, through Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) online verification service for employers and agencies to verify university award, and/or correspondence with academic institutions in the UK, etc.
Please note that when notarised documents are to be sent abroad, the requesting receiving nation may require an “apostille” stamp.
Once the notary has both seen and made copies of your identity documents, read through and briefly discussed with you our terms of business, and you have signed such terms, the notary will then make photocopies of the client's or clients's identity documents, a copy of the signed terms of business, and complete our notarial register form and open a matter on our folders to record the details of the transaction and persons present and create a unique client and matter number for the notary's records.
The notary will need to be provided the document or documents which need to be signed. So long as the form is completed and signed by the relevant parties, and there are no issues remaining such as blank entries on the form, no incorrect dates, missing identification documents, etc., then the notary will then place his or her notary stamp or stamps on the documents as required, sign and witness the signatures of witnesses, etc.
What is an Apostille and when are these required?
Where there are documents to be signed and notarised it is not uncommon that the requesting party may require an apostille (basically a document from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) confirming that the notary is in fact a notary public in the United Kingdom. Sometimes the required proof of the existence of relevant companies (and/or the authority or office of the signatories) can be obtained by the notary from the UK's Companies House, or in the case of foreign companies - from such nation's equivalent company or corporate authority.
A bit of history;
Notaries are both the oldest and smallest type of qualified lawyers in the United Kingdom. Until the year 1533, notaries were appointed on the authority of the Pope in Rome. After said year and the break from Rome, notaries were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury - but on the authority of the Crown. The Archbishop's jurisdiction was, and still is, exercised through one of the oldest of the English courts - the Court of Faculties, which is now physically located at the Precinct adjoining Westminster Abbey in London. The Court is presided over by the Master of the Faculties who is the most senior ecclesiastical judge and commonly also a judge of the Supreme Court. Since 1801 the appointment and regulation of notaries have been underpinned by statutes enacted by Parliament.
In any event, a notary public in England is a qualified lawyer who authenticates documents and transactions so that such may be recognised and accepted when received in countries outside of England & Wales.
Among the most common documents which notaries deal with are:
powers of attorney for the sale or purchase of property abroad,
proof of the existence of a company,
consent for a minor child to travel abroad,
contracts or agreements,
copies of academic degrees, etc.
certifying the statement of a translator as to the authenticity of a translation of a document from a foreign to English.
In some of these types of notarisations, you may have been told that you need to present identification and sign a document - often also making a swear or declaration - in the presence of a notary public. In other matters, it may be that you need a notary public to themselves authenticate a document and verify facts therein.
The regulation of the Notarial profession under English ecclesiastical law and The Master of the Faculties is the overall head of the Faculty Office and is the Approved Regulator of Notaries in England & Wales.