How Do I Notarize a Foreign Language Document?

Jan 23, 2020

Hi, this is Laura with

I am frequently asked questions on different topics that really befuddle notaries! They're not sure how to take care of it! And today, I'd like to talk to you about one that's asked of me frequently and it's how do I handle a foreign language document.

Now, whether you're the public trying to get a document notarized or you're a notary and you're being presented with a document to be notarized, there are some simple rules to follow. Now I will identify Arizona. That state is a little different because their law for notaries explicitly allows them to use translators and it makes the whole thing easier. But for the other 49 States, it's not so clear what you do. So these are the three things I want you to remember.

One is to observe the document for completeness. Are there blank spaces where words belong or are there missing page numbers at the bottom? The signer? it's their job to take care of those blank spaces or missing pages.

The second thing I want you to think about is if I'm maintaining a journal, how do I name this document? Well, you could write "foreign language document" and name the language that it's in. The other thing you could do is ask the signer, "what's the name of this document?" So that you can put a translation of that in your journal.

The last thing and most important is when you're performing the notarization, make sure you use only your States' wording - your own state language or certificate. This is important because many documents in foreign languages go to foreign countries and on their way they may stop at a governing agency for notaries to validate you are authorized to stamp and sign that certificate.

So typically it will go to the Secretary of State or could go to the governor's office, whoever is the governing agency in your state. They will authenticate that you are a valid notary and that the notarization you performed was legal. So that might be called an Apostille. (By the way - An Apostille is simply the name for a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the other countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention. Training on this is coming soon!) It might also be called an authentication. Every state may have one or the other that they handle. Typically it is the signers job to get that part done, but a notary could facilitate that process as well for a fee. And as a matter of fact, many notaries do.

The last thing I want to address is identification. And of course we start with, what does my state tell me I'm allowed to use? Whether that's a driver's license, a state ID, it might be a US Passport, it might be a foreign passport. And if it is a foreign ID, like a foreign passport, here's what you need to know.

The name needs to be written out in letters you can read and recognize as a notary in your language. So if you don't speak or read or write the language, then the characters need to be Romanized or English characters so that you can verify the name on the document to the name on the ID. If you can't do that, then that ID is not going to work for you. It won't be satisfactory evidence.

So, for instance, I don't read Cyrillic letters or Arabic letters or Japanese or Chinese letters, so I could not verify the name unless they had it both in those letters and using the English letters as well. Otherwise, I'm not the right notary for them. They need to seek out a notary who can read those letters.

So, if you just follow those simple things, completeness, what's the title of the document, find out from the signer, as well as use your own state certificates, you'll be in good stead all the time.

I hope this helps you when you are next presented with a document and a language you can't read or write. Remember, you just need to share a language in common so that you speak directly with your signer without the assistance of any third party services like family, friends, or professionals.

All right, have a good one. And until the next time,


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