Use of Foreign Notaries

by Jeffrey Lang
Vice President, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company
National Underwriting Counsel

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Improper document notarizations can not only create delays in the recording of real estate documents, but can also lead to challenges from junior creditors and bankruptcy trustees. The risks of an improperly notarized document increase substantially when the documents are being signed and notarized in a foreign country.

How to Obtain Properly Notarized Documents

Consular officials at any U.S. embassy or consulate can provide notarial services. Similar to a notary public in the United States, the consular official will require the personal appearance of the person requesting the service; confirm the identity of the person; establish the person's understanding of the nature and consequences of the document being signed; and determine that the person is acting without duress or undue influence and solely under his or her own free will.

Consular officials can refuse to provide notarial services only in very limited specific circumstances, including:

  1. Acts not authorized by treaty or permitted by the laws of the foreign country;
  2. Acts prohibited by the laws or regulations of the United States; or
  3. The consular official believes that the document will be used for a purpose that is contrary to the best interests of the U.S. or is patently unlawful.

Alternatively, a foreign notarization is also acceptable if one of the following two requirements are met:

  1. The use of a certificate, known as an Apostille, signed by a country's designated "Competent Authority" authenticating the seals and signatures of officials on public documents. It must be placed either directly on or attached to the document being authenticated and may only be relied upon if the country where the document is notarized is a signatory to The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents;

  2. or

  3. State law allows for the acceptance of a foreign notary.

For more information regarding Apostilles, to determine if a country is a signatory to The Hague Convention or to obtain the contact information for a country's designated Competent Authority, visit www.hcch.net.

For more information regarding the use of foreign notaries or any other title matter, please contact an Old Republic Title underwriter.


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