A Notary Public’s seal on a document indicates that it has been “notarised” or authenticated by said Notary, but not many people know what this actually means or why it is required.

These days the world is but an e-mail away and physical presence is no longer the challenged it used to be when communicating and doing business with people anywhere around the world. However, should documents be forwarded from a country outside the Republic of South Africa (or “South Africa”) to be used in South Africa, the person to whom these relate is obliged to have either his or her signature or the documents themselves authenticated at its origin i.e. overseas by a Notary Public in order for the documents to be accepted and used here.

The same rule applies vice versa to other countries’ acceptance of documentation that originates here.

A common misconception is that the office of a Notary Public is the same or similar to that of a Commissioner of Oaths. A Commissioner of Oaths can also certify documents, however, this certification does not carry the same weight as that of a Notary Public and by law this document cannot be accepted by other countries in the way the notarial authenticated document can.

Certain documents must be authenticated by a Notary Public. These may include documents when buying or selling immovable property, providing power of attorney, authorising consent for a minor to travel abroad, job or visa applications.

So how does the process work?