Notarization in the USA - Things to Consider
For public document recognition abroad, notarization is an important step before actual apostille or legalization. Often it is needed to provide certified true copies or notarized originals (e.g., depending on foreign Embassy/Consulate requirements) with certified (notarized) translations if the language of the document is not English.
In the USA notaries are appointed by states. Notary's duties may vary widely from state to state, and frequently notary public in one state cannot notarize documents from another state unless he/she has a commission there as well or there is a reciprocity agreement between the states in question. Notary public can have a commission "at large" (no county specified) or from a specific county but in most cases he/she can notarize documents from anywhere in the state but of course there may be certain limitations imposed by the state to notarize documents from a specific county only.
In general, notaries in the USA are much less regulated than notaries in other countries because they have little legal authority. For example, unlike Canada, public notaries in the U.S. mostly cannot do the following:
- Give legal advice
- Draft legal documentsd
- Recommend how a person should sign a document
- Recommend what type of notarization is necessary
- Charge fees higher than the ones prescribed by their commission.
There are of course variations so for more information, please visit National Notary Association or download Notary Handbooks sometimes issued by the Secretary of State to their notaries. Alternatively, you can also use this link from the website of the National Association of the Secretaries of State to find state notary public information pages by selecting a state or territory from the drop-down menu.
Some foreign Embassies/Consulates in the USA can also provide notarial and translation services.
How to find a Notary Public in the USA
You can use Internet (please see 2 links above) and/or Yellow Pages to find a notary public in your area.
Apostille/Certification by the Secretary of the State Requirements
Knowing the county of commission for the notary public is sometimes more or less important because for apostille or certification of documents by the Secretary of State some states require to take the notarized documents to the Clerk of the Circuit Court (of the county) for certification in the county where the notary was commissioned.
The list of Secretary of States can be found via this link. The list of Circuit Courts for the County (not to be confused with the Federal Circuit Courts that are by themselves the Competent Authority to issue apostilles on documents issued by those courts) can be found online or in Yellow Pages.
Generally, clients can notarize their public documents themselves as especially for attestations of signatures their physical presence will be necessary to verify their identity.
However, in some cases clients prefer to delegate certain tasks to us. For example, Canada Legalization Services via its sister company in the USA called "WDC Apostille & Legalization Services" can arrange certified true copies of the originals by U.S. notary publics or foreign consuls (original returned after completion of our services).