What is the difference between a Notary Public and a Justice of the Peace?

Before deciding to use the services of a Justice of the Peace (JP) when requiring your signature to be witnessed for a document that will be used overseas, it important to find out if this is acceptable. The reason for this that a Notary Public is normally required to “notarise” documents that are to be used in another country. Sending documents overseas only to find out that these documents should have been witnessed by a Notary Public rather than a JP is time-consuming and can be expensive.

Notary Publics are senior solicitors and are also known as Public Notaries or simply as a Notary. In Victoria, these solicitors undergo specialist training in Notarial Practice and have held a Principal Practice Certificate for over 5 years. Once qualified, Notary Publics are admitted into the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Alternatively, a Justice of the Peace is appointed by the Governor in Council on recommendation of the Attorney-General and is a person of good character and standing. It is volunteer role and concentrates on:

• Witnessing documents such as statutory declarations and affidavits
• Certifying an individual’s identity and true copies of original documents

In addition to carrying out the duties of a JP, a Notary Public includes their own signature and seal so that documents are recognised internationally. The services of a Public Notary include:

  •  Confirming the identity of a person and witness their signature and/or fingerprints on documents for Australian and international use
  • Verifying that a copy of a part or an entire document is a true and correct copy of an original document so that it can be used in Australia and overseas
  • Authenticating the execution of documents
  • Administering oaths
  • Witnessing statutory declarations
  • Providing certificates of law

Notaries specialise in helping people and businesses with international business transactions and dealing with overseas Government authorities. This means Notary Publics can notarise documents for:

  • The sale and purchase of overseas businesses and property or involve a party located outside of Australia
  • Overseas deceased estates and probate applications
  • Personal use such as passports, citizenship certificates and educational qualifications
  • Consent for a minor to travel overseas without one or more parents
  • Company constitutions
  • Transfer of land
  • Overseas trade, for example, Letter of Credit (LC)
  • International trademark, copyright and patent applications and infringements
  • Overseas police checks

The next time you need a document to be witnessed or verified so that it is legally recognised and accepted overseas, it is important that you make an appointment with a Notary Public rather than your local Justice of the Peace.