Notarization Verification of Degree and Other Educational Certificates – an update

Verification of Degree Certificates – an update

The point has already been made in an earlier blog that Notaries are often asked to “add a certificate” to a copy degree certificate. Typically our client is intending to travel to take up employment in a foreign country and the foreign country wants to have recorded evidence of the client’s academic achievement.

The problem for the Notary is that, whilst we understand that we should do what the receiving jurisdiction requires, it is hardly ever made clear what the receiving jurisdiction actually does require!

The choice is between
1. Making a photocopy of the paperwork produced by the client and certifying that the resulting photocopy is a true copy of the client’s paperwork or
2. Checking with the issuing University or College that the degree certificate produced is genuine and then making a photocopy and marking upon the copy a certificate to the effect that ”The original document of which this is a true copy is genuine”.

The certificate in 1 above is all that is required by many jurisdictions. They will use the resulting notarised document in the same way as employers typically use a reference letter – that is they will put it in a paper file and forget about it until their new employee shows an incompetence in their new job. At that stage the certificate will be investigated and if the original is found to be a forgery then the employer has good justification to dismiss the employee.

However most jurisdictions actually require alternative number 2 – that is that they wish to be certain at the outset that the person has a degree. They are relying upon the Notary to verify this for them.

The problem Notaries have is that the distinction between these two alternatives seems to be very hard for clients and foreign jurisdictions alike to understand. All we are told is that “we must add our certificate” – which is hardly helpful.

Furthermore in many countries the view is taken that a Notary’s Certificate can only be a warranty that the original referred to is genuine and properly issued to the person named, whatever wording the Notary actually uses.

And further still,  if we specifically say that we have not verified the authenticity of the original then this may be rejected by the receiving country even if we were not actually required to make the verification.

There is also the philosophical question as to what “an Original” actually is – it is very easy – a trite truism – to say that any photocopy document must always be a copy of an original but surely the Notary is being asked to say something more than that he has a photocopier in his office.

For this reason I and most notaries take the view that we must always verify that the original certificate is genuine before certifying a copy (with the exception of medical certification for Australia, where the AMC have clearly stated that they only require option 1 above)

This conclusion is reached not only after philosophical consideration of the meaning of the word “original” but also because, on a practical level, in this country and internationally the falsification of degree and other certificates is rife.

The role of the Notary is to prevent such fraud and forgery and simply to mark a copy of anything whatsoever as a true copy of the original – without checking the original – is really doing nothing to ensure that a forgery has not taken place. On the contrary, it may well be assisting a forger.

Please do contact me whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

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