Getting a document notarized in China may seem like a complicated matter…but thankfully it really isn’t! Once you understand exactly what you need (I’ll explain more below), your frantic search for a notary public China may not even be necessary. In this guide to notarizing a document in China, you’ll get all the information you need to get a notarization done in 24 hours or less.
Over the years, I’ve had to notarize a number of official documents in China: my university diploma, my marriage certificate and even my kids’ birth certificates. I had to notarize my US driver’s license in order to apply for a Chinese driver’s license.
The subject of official notarization of documents in China brings a lot of confusion, so I think it’s important that before we talk about how to get a document notarized, we cover the different kinds of notarization and why you would need them.
For this reason, we’ll start with why you may need a notary public in China and then, based on how you answer that, how to go about getting the notarization.
Different Kinds of Notarization in China
NOTE: The purpose of the notarization will have a big impact on determining exactly what you need.
There are a number of different reasons you may need a document notarization in China. This may seem like a trivial matter, but the truth is that the purpose of the notarization will have a big impact on determining exactly what you need.
Let’s take a few different examples:
- US-Based Notary: You’re in China and the USPS needs a notarized signature to change you over to a virtual mailbox. In this case, you need a notarization recognized by the US government. I had to do this when started using Traveling Mailbox to get mail while abroad.
- Cross-Border Notarization: You’re in China and you need your marriage certificate notarized to allow your spouse to apply for a Chinese visa. In this case, you need an authentication from the Chinese embassy in your home country to be recognized by the Chinese government.
- China-Based Notary: You’re in China and you need a China-authorized notarization of a document (usually with translation) to apply for a driver’s license or to apply for university. In this case, you’ll need to use a notary public in China.
As you can see, not every case of getting a document notarized in China requires the same solution. The first step to getting what you need is (drumroll please…) determining what you really need in the first place. 🙂
The word “notarize” can refer to a number of different things, so make sure you understand whether you need:
- Country-Recognized Notarization: Notarized document to be used within the country of origin (such as a US document needed in a US context).
- Authentication or “Apostille”: Notarized document to be used in a different country.
- China-Recognized Notarization: Chinese document to be notarized in China.
Obtaining Document Notarization in China
Now that you know what you need, let’s quickly dive into how to get what you need while you’re in China. This is much easier to do I’ll go down the list of different solutions and you can choose what’s best for you.
How to Get a U.S.-Recognized Notarization in China
There are times when you’re in China and you need a document notarized that will be used back in your home country. A lot of what I am about to share here applies to any country, but there are bits that are specifically focused on the U.S. (since that’s what I know best!). Your options are:
- Go to Your Nearest Embassy or Consulate: It is possible to meet with a notary public in China at your nearest embassy or consulate. This is convenient if you live near an embassy, but for those of us who don’t live in a Chinese city that has an embassy, this doesn’t really work. Fees range from US$30-$50 depending on your country.
- Search for an Approved Lawyer: In some cases, certain governments allow lawyers from their country to acts as a notary public in China. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re out of luck. However, if you’re Australian for example, they have a list of approved lawyers that you can use. Check your country’s embassy website to find out what they offer.
- **Get a Document Notarized Online (US only): This isn’t a joke – I’ve done this personally! In 2011, the U.S. state of Virginia amended its code to allow for notarizations using “live audio-video technology”. In other words, you can get a notarization online. I used a service called NotaryCam and in less than a few hours I was on a Skype call with a Virginia-registered notary. I provided proof of my identity and soon I had a legally notarized document. Oh, and get this: it’s only $25 to notarize a document compared to the $30+ spending the day at the embassy. I don’t know why more people don’t do this!
How to Get a Document Authenticated
When it comes to notarizing a document from one country that will be used in another country, most of the time you’re going to be “Authenticating” your document. However, there are two types of Authentication:
- Apostille: An Apostille is a type of authentication that is recognized by all countries that are participating in the Hague Convention. Unfortunately, this isn’t China.
- Legalization: If you need a document to cross state lines or be used in a country that is not a participant of the Hague Convention (such as China), you’ll need what is known as a legalization.
This is IMPORTANT: If your spouse or children are going to be joining you in China as dependents on your visa, then China will require an authenticated marriage certificate and birth certificates to prove that they are, in fact, your wife and children. If you don’t arrive in China with these documents authenticated, I can tell you from experience that it is a pain (not to mention expensive) to do this process while in China.
So what does the authentication process entail? Let’s take my marriage certificate as an example.
- Step 1: The document must first be authenticated by the Secretary of State where the document originated. So if you were married in Texas, the Texas Secretary of State will need to authenticate it. The authenticated document is usually returned with a letter stapled to the front. DO NOT REMOVE this staple or the authentication is voided.
- Step 2: Submit the authenticated document to a Chinese embassy in the US for authentication. They will return the document with a special stamp/sticker on the back that looks something like this:
- Step 3: In many cases, you will be required to also have this document translated into Chinese when you submit the authenticated document. This translation will need to be done by a Chinese translation company that has an authorized chop (or stamp) to verify authenticity.
Of course, as with any government bureaucracy, the whole process is a huge hassle. That’s why I always recommend people use a service to get everything done for you. There are a number of companies that help with document authentications. When I used one, I sent them the document I needed and a couple weeks later the authenticated version was ready for me to use.
How to get a China-Recognized Notarization
Finally, I’ll cover the last kind of notarization you might need in China – a Chinese document that will be used within China. In this case, what you’re looking for is a 公证处 (gōng zhèng chù), known in English as the Public Notary Office of the People’s Republic of China.
Chinese Notary = 公证处 /Gōngzhèngchù
No matter which city you live in China, there is a Notary Office. In most cases, it only takes less than an hour to arrive with the document, identification and money to pay the fee equivalent to about US$50. What you get is this very odd, stamped, glued together collection of papers that is recognized as a “notarization” in China.
I wish I could say there was some sort of service that could help you do this process…but to my knowledge there isn’t. You just need to do it yourself. Whether you’re notarizing a translated document, a public deed, a contract or even your driver’s license to be used within China, this is what you’ll be doing.
Conclusion | Notary Public China
As you can see, getting a document notarized while in China isn’t a terribly complicated process…as long as you recognize what kind of notarization you need. It may not be a notary public China that you need, it could be:
- A document from your home country to be used in your home country requires notarization in your home country.
- A document from one country to be used in another country like China requires authentication.
- A document from China that will be used in China requires China’s notarization.
Have you had a document authenticated or notarized in China? Let us know about your experience and what you learned in the comments below!