Not many people understand what a Notary Public does, until they need one.
When you need to use documents signed or prepared in South Africa overseas, you will generally require a Notary to authenticate them. The Hague Convention of 1961 details how documents issued in a member state can be authenticated (or certified) for use in other member states. Whether an Apostille Certificate (where countries are signatory to the Apostille Convention) or a Certificate of Authentication (where countries are not signatory to the Apostille Convention) is required, will depend on the country the documentation is being sent to.
For this article, we’ll briefly discuss the authentication procedure for the documents most commonly requested.
Unabridged birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates issued by the Department of Home Affairs
These documents will bear the stamp and signature of an authorised representative of the Department of Home Affairs and unfortunately cannot be authenticated by a Notary Public.
You will need to send the original certificate to the Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO) in Pretoria for authentication.
The current procedure for submitting documents to DIRCO for authentication will be discussed below.
Abridged certificates or printouts from the Department of Home Affairs
As these documents do not contain a stamp and signature of an authorised representative of the Department of Home Affairs, they can be authenticated by a Notary Public – this includes a marriage certificate issued by your marriage officer.
Police Clearance Certificates
The original certificate issued, signed, and stamped by the South African Police Service, can be sent straight to DIRCO for authentication. A brief breakdown on applying for a police clearance certificate can be found here.
Matric and National Senior Certificates
These qualifications need to be verified by UMALUSI before being sent to DIRCO for authentication. A full list of UMALUSI qualifications can be found on the DIRCO website: http://www.dirco.gov.za/consular/legalisation.htm
Tertiary qualifications need to be verified by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). For more information regarding SAQA’s verification procedure, you can go to http://verisearch.saqa.org.za/Individuals.aspx
Passports and identity documents
These can be authenticated by a Notary Public and certified as a true copy of the original.
Foreign qualifications and documentation
Foreign qualifications or documentation need to be authenticated in the country of origin. Only South African issued qualifications can be authenticated in South Africa.
DIRCO authentication procedure (updated June 2022)
The primary option is to arrange for a courier to deliver the necessary documents to DIRCO in Pretoria, as DIRCO does not currently accept walk-in clients.
- You will need to prepare a cover letter for DIRCO indicating the country the documents need to go to, as well as your contact details. DIRCO will use these contact details, specifically the email address, to update you on the status of your documents. A cover letter template is available to download on the DIRCO website.
The address details for delivery are:
Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)
Attention: Legalisation Section (Ground Floor)
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
The courier company needs to deliver your documents between 08:30 and 12:30, Monday to Friday, to the Internal Mail Section at the above address.
- Once your documents have been authenticated, you will receive an email notification from DIRCO’s Legalisation Section with a reference number, advising that your documents are ready for collection.
- You will need to arrange an appointment to collect your documents from DIRCO. The notification email will detail the collection procedure and will include a “request for an appointment form (collections)” to be completed and sent with your appointment request to DIRCO. Your courier company will need to bring a copy of this form when they collect your documents at the arranged time, otherwise DIRCO will not release the documents.
Once DIRCO has attached their apostille or authentication certificate to the original documents, the authentication process is complete.
Documents to be signed before a Notary Public
Where you have a power of attorney, agreement, resolution, or other such document that needs to be signed before a Notary Public, the signatory needs to sign the document in the presence of the Notary Public.
The signatory will need to bring their original identity document or passport to the appointment in order for the Notary to verify that the person signing is the person named in the document. It is common practice to attach a copy of the identity document or passport to be authenticated with the document.
Once the Notary has attached their notarial certificate, the documents then go to the High Court to be apostilled. The Registrar of the High Court will attach the apostille or authentication certificate to the notarised documents. The authentication process is then complete.
Co-habitation Agreement or Life Partnership Agreement
When applying for a spousal residency visa at the Department of Home Affairs, it is required that you submit a notarial agreement that confirms that:
- the permanent spousal homosexual or heterosexual relationship has existed for at least two years before the date of application for a relevant visa and five years at the time of application for permanent residence permit and that the relationship still exist to the exclusion of any other person and
- neither of the parties is a spouse in an existing marriage or a permanent homosexual or heterosexual relationship.
This agreement can be prepared and signed before a Notary Public. Both parties will need to appear and sign before the Notary Public. Both parties will need to bring their original identity document or passport to the appointment in order for the Notary to verify that they are the persons named in the document.
While the above summarises the procedure for authenticating the most common documents, it is important to liaise with the organisation requesting the authenticated documents to determine exactly what they require. While the Notary can assist with the authentication of your documents, the exact documents required, and any specific procedure to be followed, will need to be provided by you.
Reach out to your nearest C&A Friedlander branch should you require the assistance of a Notary Public or if you have any queries regarding the authentication process.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).