When going through the process of creating your dossier for an international adoption, there is a somewhat overwhelming checklist of documents you need to get together. It can feel like putting together a really confusing puzzle that you need to get exactly, perfectly right. One piece of the puzzle getting documents notarized.
A Notary Public’s job is to officially verify that your signature is in fact your signature. After your signature on any given document is notarized, the county clerk in the county the notary is registered in needs to authenticate the notary’s signature. After the county clerk authenticates the notary’s signature, the paperwork must be sent to the New York Department of State so the county clerk’s seal can be apostilled (another form of authentication). At Family Connections, Inc., we will take care of getting the NYS Department of State apostille after you have your signature notarized and then authenticated by your county clerk. If you have documents notarized by a Cortland County notary (which all of us at our office are!) we will take care of the Cortland County Clerk ceritifcation as well. (To make it easy on yourself, take your documents to your county clerk to be notarized & authenticated at the same time. They are a one-stop shop!)
But let’s go back to the very first part… the notary. If the notary is not done correctly, even if the document goes through the whole County Clerk & Department of State authentication process, the country you are adopting from may reject the document altogether, and then you will have to go through the entire long process again, costing you time and money. So, how should a document for an international adoption be correctly notarized?
- You must sign IN FRONT OF the notary public. PLEASE don’t make the mistake of signing your documents before you go see the notary. You MUST sign the documents in front of the notary since they are verifying that your signature actually came from you. Bring your driver’s license or other form of ID so they can verify your identity.
- The notary must have a stamp. Sometimes, notaries will hand-write in their name, notary number, county of qualification, and date their commission expires rather than have a stamp with this information on it. For international adoptions, this information must be stamped.
- NO cross-outs. Sometimes, notary publics will have an old stamp where their expiration date year is printed as 19__ instead of 20__. (The last two numbers of the year will almost always be written in- this is OK.) Domestically, it is acceptable for them to cross out the 19__ and write in the correct year. Internationally, this will be rejected. The notary seal must have no cross-outs whatsoever.
- The notary stamp must be close to the signature. The notary must place their stamp directly next to or below their signature, not far away on the page.
- The notary’s commission must not expire within a year and a half of the date of signing. In some countries, as long as the notary’s commission is valid the day of signing it is OK. In others, like Ukraine, the paperwork will be rejected if the notary’s commission expires within a year and a half of the date of signing. Ask your agency what your country’s requirements are.
- Use BLACK ink. It seems trivial, but some countries want everything signed in black ink. You & the notary should both sign in black ink.
Here's an example of a good notary:
When you take your documents to be notarized, make sure the notary is aware of and follows these requirements. A notary may tell you that it’s fine if they break any of these rules since in New York State none of these would render a notary’s signature invalid. Just let them know that the documents are for international purposes, so you need to be picky. Insisting that your notary follow these five rules will save you a lot of time and money in your international adoption. Finding a notary with a current stamp who won’t cross things out and who has a black pen is a lot easier and less time consuming than re-doing your dossier documents and having to pay again for seals, authentications, apostilles and international shipping. If you are not sure how stringent the country you are adopting from is, it is better to be safe than sorry. Follow these six rules and at least the notary portion of your dossier will be a breeze.
If you are getting documents notarized outside of New York, make sure to talk to your primary provider about what notary requirements your state has as well as your country's specific requirements. It’s important to make sure you are doing everything exactly as it should be done, as your dossier needs to be picture perfect.