What is a Notary Public in Singapore?
A Notary Public is a person appointed to notarise documents, usually by witnessing, authenticating and certifying the execution of the documents to be used in foreign countries. Notarising, or notarisation, is often required when foreigners, overseas businesses or entities request documents issued in Singapore. A foreign employer or educational institution may, for example, request birth or marriage certificates, deeds or contracts, that are used or executed in Singapore. Sometimes these entities are not familiar with the form of such documents used in Singapore, or they have no way of verifying that the documents were properly executed.
In simple terms, a Notary Public is regarded as a credible witness that a document was attested correctly, or that it is a true copy of the original. Notarising a document is similar to swearing under oath in a court of law. By signing a declaration before a Notary Public, the person confirms that the facts in the document are true and correct.
Most countries have Notaries Public, and their powers depend on the local applicable law. In Singapore, Notaries Public are governed by the Notary Public Act.
Who is eligible to be a notary in Singapore?
Section 3 of the Notary Public Act states that the Senate of the Singapore Academy of Law can appoint practising advocates and solicitors who have practised for no less than seven years to be notaries public.
Although the Act stipulates that the advocate and solicitor must have practised for at least seven years, the Singapore Academy of Law applies much stricter guidelines; applicants must have been in practice for at least fifteen years and be at least forty years old to be appointed.
A practising advocate or solicitor must further be a “fit and proper” person. If the person has been declared bankrupt, struck off the roll of advocates and solicitors, or was found guilty of professional or other misconduct, that makes the person unfit to be a Notary Public, and the person cannot be appointed. If any of these events happen after the appointment, the appointment will be revoked.
Generally, if the prospective Notary Public had any disciplinary proceedings against them that resulted in penalties, the application will be rejected. If no penalties were imposed, the senate will still investigate the merits of the complaint before making a decision.
A person is appointed for a year but may be reappointed from year to year. It is important to apply for reappointment, since anyone who performs a function of a Notary Public and who is not authorised to do so, will be guilty of an offence and shall be fined to a maximum of $10,000.
Functions of a Notary Public
The Notary Public Act states that any Notary Public in Singapore shall have the same powers and functions ordinarily exercised by Notaries Public in England. The role of a Notary Public is to prevent fraud and to make sure that a person who executes a document does it freely and voluntarily. The person must understand what is happening and must not be medicated or intoxicated or for any other reason, not understand what is happening.
Section 4(3) notes the following as powers and functions of notaries public:
Administering an oath or affirmation to any affidavit or statutory declaration:
- to confirm or prove the due execution of any document;
- by any master or crew member of any vessel in respect of any matter concerning the vessel; or
- to be used in any court or place outside Singapore.
- Take or attest any affidavit or statutory declaration relating to the above mentioned; and
- Any other powers and functions that may be prescribed.
In practice, these powers and functions can be categorised into specific types of notarisations.
Witnessing the proper execution of documents
The law sometimes requires certain formalities regarding the signing of a document, for example, a certain number of people must sign, or they must sign in the presence of each other. This often applies to the signing of deeds, contracts, or documents used for the incorporation of companies, power of attorneys and other documents used overseas. The Notary Public will oversee and “witness” the process and attest the signatures and the execution of the documents.
Certifying copies of original documents
A Notary Public can certify true copies of documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, educational certificates or testimonials. A certified copy simply means that it is a true copy of an original document. The Notary does not certify that the original document is genuine, only that the copy is a true copy of the original document.
Taking or attesting affidavits or statutory declarations and administering an oath or affirmation
This refers to a person making a written statement or statutory declaration that will be used outside of Singapore, confirming that the statement or documents are true. It usually pertains to facts known to the person who makes the statement or declaration. The Notary Public can take the statement, or attest it, administer an oath or affirmation in connection with the statement or declaration, and certify it under their official seal.
Recording a Ship’s Protests
If a ship enters a port after bad weather or an accident at sea, the ship’s master may wish to record a ship’s protest. It is a statement under oath to protect the shipowner or the master and crew from any liability for damage to the cargo or the ship. A ship’s protest declares that any damage caused was due to the perils of the sea and not due to the crew or master’s negligence. A Notary Public has the authority to administer an oath and record such a declaration.
Protesting bills of exchange
When a bill of exchange is dishonoured, either by non-acceptance or non-payment, the holder of the bill can approach a Notary Public to note the dishonour and protest the bill of exchange. A bill of exchange is similar to a cheque, where one party orders another party (the bank in the case of a cheque) to pay a third party, the payee, a fixed amount of money on demand. If the bill is not accepted, or the payment is not made, and the holder of the bill will not be able to collect the money, they can protest the bill by enlisting the services of a Notary Public.
Proof of notarisation
As proof of notarisation, and to ensure that no-one tampers with the document, the Notary Public will issue a notarial certificate that is attached to the notarised document. All documents must be bound by a red ribbon in the prescribed form. The certificate must be sealed with a seal issued by the Singapore Academy of Law and affixed on the certificate over the ribbon that runs through the certificate.
Authentication, verification, and legalisation of notarisation
Some foreign countries require that the notarisation must be authenticated. In such cases, the Singapore Law Academy will issue an authentication certificate to verify that the Notary is a lawfully practising Notary Public, and to verify the Notary’s signature.
Some foreign agencies require further verification that the person is indeed a Notary Public and further verification of the signature by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In some cases, the documents may need to be legalised by the embassy or consulate of the foreign country to verify the origin of the documents. This is done by an official stamp and a signature on the document.
Notary Public Fees
Most notarial service fees are prescribed by law and cannot be negotiated. The fees are published in the First Schedule of the Notaries Public Rules. For any other notarial or related acts, not mentioned in the schedule, the Notary Public may charge any reasonable rate. “Reasonable” depends on the nature and complexity of the service.
Preparing for your appointment
If you are asking a Notary to certify copies of a document, you need to take the original document with you. The Notary Public must be able to compare the copies with the original. The process will usually take between 30 – 45 minutes, but you may scan and email your documents 1 day ahead of your scheduled appointment time to speed up the process.
If you need to sign a document or statement in the presence of a Notary Public, prepare the statement, but don’t sign until you are in the presence of the Notary Public. The Notary cannot witness your signature if it is not done in their presence.
It may be prudent to provide an English translation by an official interpreter if your statement or document is in a foreign language, but if you require assistance with this, you may also reach out to us for contacts to support this. If the Notary is only requested to witness and attest to the identity of the signature, a translation may not be needed, but the guidelines suggest that it would be prudent to sign both the original and an English translation. Check with us if you need an official translation.
Take your identification document with you to the appointment; the Notary Public must be able to verify your identity.
Before approaching a Notary Public, you should enquire with the relevant foreign agency as to its exact notarising requirements. The Singapore Notaries Public Act is in accordance with Singapore law and will be familiar with typical notarial services, but you need to check if there are any additional requirements from your specific foreign agency.
Finally, please be reminded that you will need to book an appointment with SAL (Singapore Academy of Law) – https://legalisation.sal.sg/ to legalize your documents. SAL will then put a seal on the certificate. If you are unsure about this aspect, please do get in touch and we can happily guide you.