How to Certify True Copies of Documents in Singapore
As the world becomes a smaller place, and more transactions take place across borders, various documents will naturally be sent across borders too. How can a person in one country know whether a document from another country is genuine?
Documents originating from Singapore may need to be notarised and/or legalised before they can be used abroad. These processes might informally be known as getting a “certified true copy”. Some common scenarios for when you may need to have your documents notarised and/or legalised is if you are managing a business or property abroad, or are involved in litigation overseas.
Whether you are completing the purchase of a vacation home in Malaysia or selling your multimillion-dollar company incorporated in the Cayman Islands to wealthy Russian businessmen living in London, read on to learn:
What is notarisation?
Notarisation involves certifying a document as either an authentic copy of an original document, or as having been validly executed. Notarisation is done by a notary public, who is generally a senior lawyer practising in Singapore who has been appointed to act as a notary public under the Notaries Public Act.
Many services fall under the broad category of “notarisation”. For example, notaries public can:
- Do general notarisation to certify that a document is valid; or
- Certify copies of documents as true copies of the original.
You should seek advice from a lawyer, or the person requesting copies of your documents, on which of the notary public’s service(s) you will need to obtain for your document.
That said, documents which need to be notarised generally fall into 2 categories:
- Documents which need to be certified as genuine, such as photocopies of academic transcripts; and
- Documents which give someone authority to do something. “Authority” documents generally have to be signed in front of the notary public so he can certify that the document was properly signed and is therefore valid. An example of an “authority” document needing notarisation would be a Power of Attorney, which allows your representative to sell property abroad on your behalf.
How to notarise a document in Singapore
In the case of “authority” documents, the notary public will need to be satisfied that you understand the nature and purpose of the document you are executing. The notary public will inspect the document and the copy, and notarise it using his official stamp and signature.
You will then need to proceed to the SAL Counter and present the notarised document to have it authenticated by SAL. The SAL Counter is located at the Adelphi 1 Coleman Street #08-06 Singapore 179803.
It is mandatory for a notarial certificate to be issued for every document notarised upon payment of an authentication fee (see below). The notarial certificate will usually state:
- The notary public’s full name
- The notary public’s status as a notary public
- The notary public’s certification and attestation of the document that the notary public is being asked to notarised. For example, the notary public may certify and attest that the documents annexed to the certificate had been duly signed and executed by the signatories stated in the document, or that the documents annexed to the certificate are certified true copies
- The place and date of issue of the document
The certificate will then end off with the notary public’s full name, signature and seal.
Where to find a notary public in Singapore
Many law firms offer notary services. You can get in touch with our trusted notary public lawyers here.
Alternatively, SAL maintains a comprehensive directory of notaries public in Singapore here.
What to bring for notarisation
If you are certifying copies as true copies, you should bring the original document and the photocopy of the document to be notarised.
On the other hand, if you need to validate “authority” documents, you will need to bring some form of identification for all the signatories of the document and the document to be notarised itself. Please check with the notary public.
If you have any particular instructions from the party requiring notarisation of the document, you should pass these to your notary public beforehand too.
Cost of notarisation
The fees for most notarial services are fixed under the law. You can check the fees for common notarial services in Singapore here.
Notarisation and legalisation are part of the whole chain of authentication towards legalising documents for use abroad.
How to legalise a document in Singapore
The procedure for getting a document legalised depends on whether the document is government-issued or non-government-issued.
If the document to be legalised is laminated, you should also first request the document’s issuer to issue you a certified true copy or an extract of the original document for legalisation.
Note that upon legalisation, if your document is heading to a non-signatory state of the Apostille Convention, you must present it to the consular section of the mission representing that country. Otherwise, the document can be sent straight to your recipient.
If you are unable to personally present at SAL to legalise your documents, you may appoint a proxy to complete the legalisation on your behalf. No authorisation letter is required.
(a) How to legalise documents issued by the Singapore government
For hard-copy government-issued documents, such as marriage certificates, passports or Singapore O-Level certificates, the procedure is as follows:
- Make an online request for legalisation by entering the details of the document that needs to be legalised via SAL’s Legalisation portal
- Make payment and receive an invoice or email confirmation
- Visit SAL from 9 am – 4.30 pm, Mondays to Fridays, to have the document legalised by presenting the invoice or email confirmation
The procedure for computer-generated government documents is similar. However, the document will have to first be certified by the department that issued the document before SAL can legalise it.
For example, the printed copy of a Business Profile generated by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) will need to be certified by an ACRA official before being brought to SAL for legalisation.
(b) How to legalise documents not issued by the Singapore government
For documents not issued by the Singapore government, legalisation will involve the following steps:
- Notarise the document at your preferred notary public
- You should inform the notary public that you also need the document to be legalised after notarisation
- Have the document authenticated by SAL (as explained above)
If the document is a commercial document (e.g. a bill of sale), the document must first be certified by any of the Chambers of Commerce (International, Chinese, Malay, Indian or Singapore Manufacturing Federation) before it can be legalised.
What to bring for legalisation
What you will need to bring for legalisation will depend on what you need legalised (and also notarised, if required). Wherever possible however, you should bring official identification documents for all the signatories to the document (e.g. NRIC/passport), the original document and photocopies (if needed).
If the party asking for the document to be legalised has given you any particular instructions for legalisation, then do note those and bring any additional documents requested.
Cost of legalisation
The cost of legalisation depends on what you are legalising.
|Notarisation of document||From $40, but could be significantly higher. See our other article for more information on the fees for notarial services in Singapore.|
|Authentication of notary public’s signature at SAL||$86.40 (GST included)|
|Legalisation at SAL||$10.70 per document (GST included)
This fee is waived for notarised documents.
|Legalisation of certified true copies||$1.00 photocopying fee per document|
Documents not properly “certified as true copy”, i.e. notarised (i.e. properly executed or certified as authentic in front of a notary public) and/or legalised may be challenged as being invalid for use. This can lead to significant delays and being unable to enforce otherwise-clear legal rights.
It could even lead to potential liability for negligence if the party getting the document notarised was doing so on another’s behalf, such as a company director.
It is possible to engage a notary public to notarise your document on a one-off basis. However, if getting the document notarised (and/or legalised, if required) is just one aspect of an entire transaction, you may find it less stressful to engage a lawyer to oversee the whole process on your behalf.
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