We have a pretty straightforward view of notarization in the U.S. and Canada … you sign a document, and a notary stamps & signs the same document, pointing to your signature and saying “yep, that’s the person who signed this.” It’s a handy tool for verification whenever the document needs to be used in court or submitted to a government agency. But what if the signing happens overseas? How do you get it notarized?
Two ways, one easy, one not so easy.
The harder way: get it notarized, then get it legalized. That is, have one more official—or several more officials in a chain—point to the notary’s signature and say “yep, that’s a valid notary signature.” In the best case scenario, this is done in a single step, the affixing of an Apostille.
The easy way: the Consular Affairs section at the United States Embassy or Consulate, or a Canadian Embassy or Consulate if you intend to use a document north of the border. Both countries’ diplomatic missions provide this function by appointment (some even take walk-in traffic) and for not a huge fee (around fifty bucks in most cases).
Simply Google “(U.S. or Canada) Embassy Notary (foreign country)” and you can go straight to the right link. “Canada Embassy Notary Germany” will tell you that the Embassy in Berlin as well as Consulates in Munich, Stuttgart, and Düsseldorf all provide them.
“U.S. Embassy China Notary” would lead you to believe that our consulates in China don’t notarize… just Google the specific consulate and you’re there. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
When a Canadian consular officer notarizes a document in Berlin, that document has legal effect from Vancouver and Yellowknife clear out to the Maritimes. When a U.S. consular officer in Shanghai notarizes a document, it has legal effect in all fifty states without exception.
If you go the route of a foreign notary, it gets a little more more complicated, and probably more costly to boot. (See here for more about the Apostille process.)
Not oppressively so, but it’s not quite as simple as the Embassy option.