Often when doing business internationally (for example, opening a bank account or applying for citizenship by investment) you will be asked for certified, notarized and/or apostilled documents.
Fortunately, it is now possible to complete most of these processes 100% remotely from your home or office using videoconferencing technology. This article looks at online notary and apostille services from the USA and the UK that are available to international clients, as well as alternative means of certifying certain documents.
One of the biggest problems in years past in our business was the difficulty of obtaining certified documents in certain countries. Fortunately, advances in technology and the move online spurred by the pandemic have made things easier in recent years.
Practises for certifying documents vary widely between countries. Some countries are much more liberal than others.
One of the most common restrictions on notary public services is regarding notarization of documents in a foreign language. Notaries in many countries are only allowed to certify documents in the official language of their country. This can be inconvenient if you are in, for example, Russia and need a document notarized in English. Sometimes there are legal workarounds involving attaching official translations, but these are generally very clumsy and expensive.
Another restriction in some countries is the certification of true copies of official documents such as passports, ID cards and drivers licenses. In some countries this is outright prohibited, whereas in others there are specific restrictions: for example some countries prohibit making colour copies of official documents, whilst others insist that only colour copies are valid.
More and more banks and financial institutions these days are accepting electronic signatures, and electronic means of verifying ID documents. You may have been asked to upload a selfie of yourself holding your passport, or to take part in a video call where you rotate your identity document in front of your webcam so that its security features can be verified. In these cases, no certification, notarization nor apostille is required.
What if you are dealing with a bank, business partner or government agency that requires a hard copy document with an apostille, or simply a scan of a notarized document? This is where an online notary service comes in handy.
Virginia, USA, was the first state to enact remote online notarization. The legislation was signed on March 26, 2011, allowing notaries to meet with signers via videoconference. Since then many other US states have followed suit. Documents that have been executed remotely can be apostilled just as if they had been signed in the physical presence of the notary.
Therefore, you can notarize a document in the USA, no matter where you are located in the world. There are many such services, but two we have found work well for international clients are NotaryCam and US Virtual Notary.
Apostilles in the USA are still issued as physical documents, but these can be couriered to you anywhere in the world and both the above services will take care of this for you.
What about other countries? The United Kingdom now allows certain notary services to be performed remotely. Remote notary services in the UK work in a slightly different way. Guidelines from the regulator issued during the pandemic require that clients are physically present in the jurisdiction if they are signing documents via videoconference.
However, if you simply need certified copies and are not physically signing anything yourself, this can be ordered from anywhere in the world. In some cases you may need to courier the original physical document to the UK and have it returned by the same route – but in many cases if the authenticity of the document can be verified online, it is enough to supply an electronic version. This would apply, for example, in the case of Companies House documents, UK academic qualifications, birth certificates and British passports. This service includes foreign documents that can be verified online, at the discretion of the notary.
One big advantage of the UK over the USA is for international clients requiring apostilles. Apostilles are generally easier and quicker to obtain in the UK: there is only one central office that issues them and the procedure is always carried out remotely. Our recommended provider in the UK is The Apostilles Group.
Finally, we have found that more and more notaries, commissioners for oaths and the like in different countries around the world are willing to perform their services via Zoom, Skype etc. Sometimes they may not advertise this service online, but it is available to clients who ask. For example, in some of the jurisdictions offering Citizenship by Investment, it has become quite common practice.
Do you need online notary or remote apostille services for international business? If you are simply visiting us from the web, you can explore the links above first. We do not provide stand alone document certification services at this time.
If however you are a client of ours who is using our services to form an offshore company, open an offshore bank account or apply for Citizenship by Investment (Second Passport), feel free to ask your Relationship Manager about ways we can help you to certify your documents depending on the banks and jurisdictions involved. Needless to say, we only provide fully legal and legitimate solutions.