These Guidelines outline the Department's policy and procedures with respect to the 'authentication' of signatures and the issuing of 'Apostilles'. They are intended to protect the integrity of the Department's notarial services from a client-service and fraud prevention perspective, and to assist officers performing notarial services to understand their role and responsibilities.
The Guidelines apply to notarial services provided by Canberra and State and Territory Offices. They also apply to authentications performed overseas (overseas posts are not permitted to issue Apostilles).
Officers performing notarial services must not disclose any information to which they become aware during the process of issuing an authentication or Apostille. This especially applies to personal information but also applies to commercial information.
Should an officer become aware that there are serious grounds to believe that a notarised document is illegal or may be put to fraudulent use, they should immediately inform their supervisor, who should in turn advise Consular Branch and the Conduct and Ethics Unit.
Where staff have been presented with documents, the contents of which cause them concern (eg they believe them to be contrary to Australia's interests), they should refer the matter to their Head of Mission or Director, who should seek advice from Consular Branch as to an appropriate course of action.
The Consular Fees Act and Regulations (attached) provide for the collection of fees for the performance of consular services. The Act requires that the list of consular fees be displayed prominently in a position "where it may be readily inspected by persons seeking the performance of consular acts".
Additional information regarding notarial work or these Guidelines may be obtained from the Consular Policy and Crisis Management Section, Consular Branch.
Why do we 'legalise' documents
Under normal circumstances, consular work involves providing services to Australian citizens. In the case of notarial work, the nationality of the client in not important. For notarial services, it is the origin of the document or the use to which that document will be put that is important. Under customary international law, documents issued in one country often cannot be used in
another country unless those documents have been 'legalised' for use overseas.
Australian Documents for Use Overseas
In 'legalising' Australian documents for use overseas, we are being asked to meet the requirement of foreign governments so that an Australian document may be used in that country.
Advice to Clients
It is for this reason that we emphasise that clients need to check with the Embassy or Consulate of that country what is required. Some of the issues which clients need to establish include:
- does their document need to be authenticated or have an Apostille placed upon it;
- can the documents be bound or should they be separated;
- can multiple signatures be accepted under one authentication or Apostille;
- can any DFAT State Office provide the authentication or is it only the State office in the jurisdiction of the Consulate/Embassy?
Foreign Documents for Use in Australia
In the case of foreign documents, we need to establish what use that document will be put to in Australia. For example, often foreign documents cannot be accepted under Australian legislation unless they have been duly authenticated by a relevant Australian mission overseas. For example, State Medical Registration Boards require documentation related to foreign doctors working in Australia to be authenticated, or signatures witnessed, by Australian missions overseas. The Financial Transactions Reporting Act also places a similar onus on Australian diplomatic and consular staff for foreign entities wishing to conduct financial transactions in Australia). We should not, however, be performing notarial work on foreign documents which are not for use in Australia.