The important of true copies in Singapore

In today’s highly cosmopolitan and connected globe it is more and more common for transactions and deals to take place between and across countries. However, due to high risk, it is also increasingly important that systems are in place to ensure that those in one country can be certain that their dealings with others in another country are genuine and legally binding. For this reason a notary public plays a very important role.

Sometimes, a document from Singapore might need to be notarised before it can be used overseas. It can also be a legal requirement to have certain documents notarised for use within Singapore. There are many different types of notarisation, but one of the most common is often referred to as getting ‘a true copy.’ Almost always, when you are presenting a copy of a document it must be a true copy, and cannot just be a simple photocopy.

When might you need a true copy?

There are many different circumstances in which you might need a true copy of your documents. This includes:
– When you are carrying out business between two countries.
– When you own or manage property overseas.
– If you are involved in overseas litigation or legal proceedings.
– When you are applying for visas, passports or other government issued documents.
– And much more.

The needs of each individual vary greatly when it comes to notarisation and getting true copies, but you will often find this to be a requirement of any dealings involving overseas parties, or for legally binding documents in Singapore.

What does getting a true copy really mean?

Getting a ‘true’ copy is much different to just providing a photocopy of your identification or your documents. A true copy is authenticated by a notary public, and is validly executed using their notarial seal. Notaries public are most often senior lawyers operating in Singapore with more than 15 years professional experience who are specially appointed and act in accordance with the Notaries Public Act.

A notary public can certify a copy of your documents to validate to external parties that they are true to the originals. As a general rule, there are two types of services that a notary public will provide to you when it comes to notarising your documents.

1. Firstly, a notary public can certify that your documents are genuine in the case of photocopies, transcripts, etc.
2. Secondly, they can assist you with documents that give someone authority to do something on your behalf. One example might be in the case of a power of attorney. In these instances you must sign your documents in the presence of the notary public for them to be valid.

How are documents notarised?

A notary public will ensure that you understand the nature and the purpose of all documents you are having notarised, before executing them. Next, they will inspect the provided documents to ensure they are genuine, or true copies. Thirdly, they will notarise them using their official notarial stamp and signature.

In line with current legislation, a notary public will also provide a notarial certificate for a fee. This should always include their full name, their status and qualifications, their certification, and a statement attesting that the documents have been duly sighted/signed/annexed and are true copies. The certificate will also include their signature and seal.

How to find a notary public in Singapore?

There are hundreds of notaries public in Singapore. You can often find these at law firms, or you can contact one of our notaries public right here through this website. Alternatively, the Singapore Law Academy has a full directory of notaries public Singapore wide.

What do you need to take to notarisation?

To ensure the notarisation process is fast and efficient it is important that you take everything you need with you to your appointment. If you are trying to get a true copy of your documents certified, it is VITAL that you bring the original. A notary public cannot notarise a copy without sighting the original.

You will also need to bring your identity documents, and any paperwork that needs to be signed in the presence of the notary public. If you have specific instructions from an external party about your documents, bring those too. Most importantly, the notary public needs to be sure that you understand the requirements of all documents you present, and can verify your identity, so you must attend all notary public appointments yourself. You can’t send someone else to go on your behalf.

How much does notarisation cost?

The exact fees will depend on which services you need, but fortunately, notarisation fees are fixed by current legislation. For the current schedule of fees for notarisation services in Singapore you can check here.

What is legalisation?

If you are required to get a true copy and have your documents notarised, you should check if your documents need to be legalised too. This is a slightly more complex process that is required when a document is to be used abroad in certain countries for official purposes, i.e. immigration applications.

At current, Commonwealth countries don’t require documents from Singapore to be legalised for legal proceedings, and when using documents from another Commonwealth country in Singapore, they similarly only need to be notarised.

When required, documents and true copies can be legalised (after they are notarised) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Legalisation of documents not originating from within Singapore varies, and what you need to bring with you to your appointment depends on your individual requirements. It is best to discuss legalisation processes with our friendly team if you require.

What if I don’t get a true copy?

If you fail to have your document copies certified as ‘true’ copies there can be a range of ramifications ranging from legal, to professional, to personal. For example, your documents may be challenged and may be found to be invalid for use for your desired purposes. Such issues can cause significant delays to your proceedings both at home and abroad. Not only is this an annoyance, but it can be costly.

In some more serious instances, an individual who fails to present a true copy could be found to be liable or negligent, and could be held accountable to delays or costs accrued by other parties due to the failure to provide the appropriate documentation.

Your notary public needs

Now that you understand the importance of obtaining true copies, you can decide whether this is likely to be a one off requirement, or part of an ongoing process. You can certainly visit or engage the services of notary public to notarise individual documents on a one off basis. However, it can also be a good idea to develop an ongoing relationship with a notary public that will understand your individual requirements and can assist you on an ongoing basis. Your notary public may be a lawyer who also assist you with other legal requirements and can oversee dealings on your behalf.

Just remember, a copy is only a ‘true’ copy if it bears a notary seal!