08. Foreign Documents
Can we sign documents that are being sent abroad / overseas / outside of Ireland?
In practice the answer is mostly yes for English speaking countries where the office of ‘Commissioner for Oaths’ / ‘Commissioner of Oaths’ also exists, and no for countries where English is not the main language.
Ultimately, it depends on what a particular foreign authority will accept.
Oftentimes a document that needs to be signed will be accompanied by an instruction sheet outlining which “witnesses” are acceptable. The problem that frequently is seen is that such a list is drawn up with the intention that the document is being signed within the foreign country in question, so lists can often be of little comfort. Titles vary globally.
In reality, the signature of Mr David O’Sullivan Cork Commissioner for Oaths has been accepted by multiple authorities in English speaking countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries beyond Ireland. Mr David O’Sullivan Cork Commissioner for Oaths has also been appointed as a Commissioner for Oaths in an overseas Commonwealth jurisdiction and is empowered to sign documents while in Ireland for use in that Country.
Most documents are written for use in their own country.
- A document from Australia
might refer to needing a signature of a “Justice of the Peace” or “Commissioner for Declarations” or an “Authorised Witness”.
- A document from South Africa might refer to a “Commissioner of Oaths” or “Kommissaris van Ede”.
- A document from Canada might refer to a “Commissioner for Taking Affidavits” or “Commissioner for Taking Oaths”
- A document from the United States might call for a “Notarization”, or to be “Notarized” by a US “Notary Public” or US “Public Notary” or Lawyer or Attorney.
- A document from the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales etc.)
Might refer to the need for a “counter signature” or to be “counter signed”.
Sometimes documents written by laypersons might even refer to jumbled offices which don’t actually exist such as a “Commissioner of the Peace” or “Commissioner of the Oaths” or “Oaths Commissioner”. Occasionally, older Irish documents might refer to “a Commissioner to administer Oaths for the High Court” or “a Commissioner for administering oaths in the Supreme Court”.
While the terms above vary they all essentially refer to “a person authorised by law to administer an oath” or “a person authorised by law to take and receive an Affidavit or Statutory Declaration”. In Ireland the title for such a person is a “Commissioner for Oaths”. The laws of many countries accept that when a document is being signed outside of their own borders it can be signed by a person who is authorised to administer oaths in that foreign place. (i.e. the signature of an Irish Commissioner for Oaths would be acceptable).
Staying with the topic of Ireland: Documents which need the signature of a Peace Commissioner can also be signed by Mr David O’Sullivan Commissioner for Oaths.
Sometimes a document will call for the signature of a Practising Solicitor / Practising Solicitor, if that document is a ‘Statutory Declaration’ or an ‘Affidavit’ then it can be signed by Mr David O’Sullivan Commissioner for Oaths even if the document itself does not state this.
Documents which appear to need the signature of an Irish Notary Public can also in many cases also be signed by Mr David O’Sullivan Commissioner for Oaths. If we can sign your document we will, and if we cannot then we will suggest the name of another service provider who may be able to assist you.
Apostille / Legalisation
If a document is to be sent outside Ireland then sometimes the person / party to whom it is being sent might ask that it is “Apostilled” or “Legalised” before it leaves Ireland. These are two different streams, and are both are optional extra steps followed after a person/ agency in Ireland has signed or stamped a document.
A Document signed by Mr David O’Sullivan Commissioner for Oaths can have an Apostille affixed to it, and that will be acceptable in certain countries. Some foreign agencies who ask for an “Apostille” will expect to see the term “Notary Public” – and not “Commissioner for Oaths” – on a document.
However, if your document requires “Legalisation” then we suggest you instead visit a Notary Public. A Notary Public is a person who specialises in signing foreign documents. The Faculty of Notaries Public in Ireland does not publish a list of fees, but it is generally understood that a Commissioner for Oaths tends to be cheaper per document on a like-for-like basis. Most foreign agencies who ask for “Legalisation” will expect to see the term “Notary Public” – and not “Commissioner for Oaths” – on a document.