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Online notarization

Going Global: How Notaries Differ Across the World

Notaries play an important role in transactions across the world, however it's important to note the differences when notarizing abroad.
Ryan Derousseau
October 11, 2022
3 min

When your customers or your organization need to lean on a notary to finalize a contract, where you operate will play a significant role in exactly what type of process you can expect. This service has many different definitions based on country-specific laws. This can impact how you view (and deal with) a notary.

A notary's services and expertise will depend greatly on the history of the country, which shaped its legal system. For instance, countries that used to function under the rule of Great Britain will likely have a legal system similar to the U.S., operating under common law design. This results in a far different task for notaries than in, say, France, which operates under civil law. There, notaries must study law and handle much of the contract development process.

Depending on where you’re conducting business, the country where the deal will finalize will greatly alter the impact that the notary has on the transaction. Here’s a rundown of how some countries utilize the notary – and how it may differ from your home base.

United States

Notaries in the U.S. do not require a law degree, nor do they provide legal advice at the signing of a contract. Instead, much of the role of the notary is to confirm attribution, ensure that the parties signing an agreement do so willingly and that their identity has been confirmed. There are also online notarization laws that allow notaries to perform notary services online, depending on the state in which they're located.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the role of the notary looks similar to that of the U.S. They primarily handle certifying signatures and ensuring capacity of the individual signing. They can also have the capability to verify legal documents and take affidavits, providing the statements to courts.

France

Unlike common law countries, notaries within a civil law design take on much larger duties. In France, notaries essentially serve the government. Their job? Provide neutral counsel to both parties during a contract negotiation and signing, particularly with regards to real estate. This requires notaries to have an undergraduate law degree along with a master’s degree in law or from a notarial school. For the exchanging and negotiating of property, they handle the development of the contracts, deeds, and other legal materials. They’re also the professionals who businesses turn to when wanting to form a company or sell it to a buyer.

China

In China, the notary must provide services when related to issues, such as contracts, inheritances, distribution of property, and other government requirements, like preservation of evidence. They may also provide legal consultations as they relate to notarization. Those providing the notarization services must have passed the national judicial examination and interned at a notarial office for two years.

Australia

Like the U.S., Australia’s notaries certify signatures, authenticate that those signing have the ability to do so, and that the signers all sign the same document. They can’t provide any legal advice or give insight into the implications of signing, nor can they prepare any documents.

India

In India, the role expands slightly from that of the UK. The notary certifies and attests documents. Like the UK, the notary can also administer oaths and provide affidavits. Beyond those duties, they may also record proof or evidence for courts and even act as a mediator, counselor, or arbiter in certain situations.

Italy

Similar to France, Italian notaries draft documents and contracts. They’re empowered by the Italian government to guarantee the legality of the agreement. Like France, notaries in Italy are particularly important people when buying or selling real estate. While one side of the transaction may hire the notary, the professional will ensure the legality of the agreement, providing neutral counsel to both sides during the finalization of the purchase.

Mexico

In Mexico, the rules regarding who can become a notary require significant training. The person must work as a lawyer in Mexico and study under an experienced notary for four years before passing a test. This gives the notary a significant role in the legal process, from having the ability to arbitrate or mediate to issuing judicial opinions, along with other more traditional notarial services.

How to get documents notarized by a U.S. notary abroad

As complex as the world’s legal system is, so are the different dynamics of notaries across countries. You need the right tools, guidance, and experts that understand the various differences among countries. By doing so, your business can run smoothly and you can better serve your clients.

For U.S.-based businesses that have clients or business located abroad, the Notarize platform provides legal and secure online notarizations and ensures that there is a properly-commissioned U.S. notary available online 24/7. With remote online notarization, you and your clients can access a U.S. notary from anywhere, anytime from a smartphone, desktop, or tablet.

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Ryan Derousseau

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