Notary Public Hong Kong
Notary Public Hong KongUpdated on Sunday 21st February 2021
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A notary public in Hong Kong is an individual who the relevant experience and has been appointed to act in this capacity according to the laws in force, among which we can mention the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, the Notaries Public Rules and others.
Notarization is needed for a number of documents and as part of more complex procedure that demand the existence of documents that have been drawn up by a notary public in Hong Kong.
The experts at our law firm in Hong Kong present the main situations in which the services of a notary may be needed. As needed, we are able to provide more details to our clients and assist as needed during the legal procedures that demand this additional step.
Who can become a notary public in Hong Kong?
A notary public is an individual who has undergone a special examination, is registered with the relevant authorities, and serves as an official and a third-party witness to a number of documents. He is the one who has the capacity and the authority to certify that a certain document is genuine as well as authenticate a signature.
An individual is required to apply for certification as a notary public in Hong Kong and undergo the examination defined in the Notaries Public (Examination) Rules (Cap. 159). The person is required to hold a letter of no objection before the examination and a written notice. Moreover, the individual needs to have applied for membership with the Society of Notaries. In order to become a notary, the individuals is required to pass all the subjects in a single examination. There is no limit on the number of times an individual may take the examination, however, the requirement remains in place for the applicant to pass all subjects in a single examination. Both the application for examination and the examination are subject to the fees imposed by the Society of Notaries.
The appointment as notary public in Hong Kong is made once following the review of the Chief Judge (who then issued a certificate of appointment). Once this step is complete, the individual who wishes to register as a notary public will submit the certificate of appointment and the registration fee with the Registrar of the Society of Notaries. This step is required for those who wish to provide notarial services as a form or as an individual.
Companies that provide notarial services will provide their information to the Society of Notaries (a notary firm will state its name, the name of all the principals in the form, the name of every person in the firm that practices as a notary public).
Notaries public need to keep a record of their work. This register needs to include information on the notarial work, most notably the following: the date of the work, the name of the client, the nature of the document and a short description of the work. The data is to be retained for at least 6 years.
According to the Notary Public Practice Rules, these professionals need to observe a set of good conduct rules. In their practice, they must not allow for the impairment of their independence or integrity, the duty to act in the best interest of the client, they are required to maintain a proper standard of work and their own reputation as well as the reputation of the profession. The notary has a duty of care towards individuals in any jurisdiction when these persons place their reliance on a statement contained in the notarial work provided by the professional.
Profit sharing with individuals who do not act as notaries public or solicitors is not permitted in Hong Kong. For example, a notary public is not allowed to pay part of the profits to an individual who introduces a client. However, this is possible when the profit is shares among those who practice in the same firm as well as when a company agrees to pay a certain sum to a retired principal of the firm as well as in several other scenarios in which the payment is made to a predecessor in the firm of the legal representatives of a deceased principal of the firm.
Disciplinary proceedings and the grounds for refusal of the practicing certificate for notaries
A notary public in Hong Kong needs to offer ongoing compliance with the provisions of the relevant Rules and the set of good practices imposed for this profession. Failure to do so results in either the refusal of the application for the practicing certificate or in disciplinary proceedings against the individual who acted as notary public.
The Society of Notaries may refuse to issue a certificate of practice for a notary public in the following cases:
- the application is not filled in according to the provisions/it does not comply with the relevant section of the Notaries Public (Practising Certificate) Rules;
- the applicant has conducted in a manner that is unfit of a notary public;
- the individual is unfit to act as notary public.
The conduct is considered improper for a notary public in the following cases:
- he was suspended from practicing as a notary public or a solicitor;
- he was suspended from practicing in a foreign jurisdiction;
- he was convicted in Hong Kong or in another jurisdiction of an offence associated with fraud or dishonesty;
- he willingly provided the Society with false or misleading information for the application;
- suffers or appears to suffer from a mental health disorder (as described in the Mental Health Ordinance).
When a practicing notary public in Hong Kong is subjected to disciplinary tribunal proceedings, then his conduct becomes the subject of an inquiry and it may be submitted to the Tribunal. Within seven days of the decision to conduct an inquiry the respondent and the applicant are to be informed of the names of the Tribunal members who will oversee the proceedings. It is possible to discontinue the inquiry without a hearing when the Tribunal is satisfied (after having analyzed the provided evidence) that there is no case for disciplinary action against the concerned notary public. In this case, the inquiry can be discontinued without a further hearing. On the other hand, if the Tribunal decides that it is a case for disciplinary action against the respondent, then it must fix the first hearing no later than 21 days from the date of service of the notice.
We invite you to watch a video about the role of the notary public:
What are the services provided by a Hong Kong notary?
The notary public in Hong Kong can a both prepare and notarize (certify) certain declarations, documents and official acts. The documents are certified when the notary applies the seal or stamp.
The notary can also notarize foreign documents once a sworn translation is provided (the document’s translation is the one notarized and then used in Hong Kong as needed).
Some of the situations in which a notarized document is required are many of the ones in which our team of lawyers in Hong Kong can also assist interested individuals. The original document, as well as proof if identification for the individual requesting the notarization are required.
The purpose of the procedure is to ensure that the document is authentic. It is a manner of avoiding fraud and it is commonly requested by many institutions, either in Hong Kong or overseas.
The fees associated with the notarization of different documents, as well as other procedures undertaken by the notary himself are determined by the Hong Kong notary office and vary.
What types of documents can a notary public in Hong Kong issue?
Several types of documents are issued by a notary public. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Real estate documents: real estate purchase and sale agreements, private purchase sale agreements, and others;
- Business transfers: it is common for notarized documents to be required when a business is purchased by another individual;
- Estate planning: a will is drawn up in front of a notary public in Hong Kong; in fact, this is an essential step of estate planning;
- Power of attorney: this is a legal instrument that can be used in many situations and can be particularly useful for business purposes; it is drawn up in front of a notary public;
- Legalization or apostille: this is a certification of the fact that a document is valid and it is performed by the notary public; common documents include birth and death certificates, divorce decisions, passport copies, diplomas and other certificates issued by competent authorities; an important distinction is that the apostille certifies the use of the document in all countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention.
Our team of lawyers in Hong Kong can provide more details on the difference between an apostille, a legalization and a notarization.
The number of notaries in Hong Kong continues to grow, as reflected in the higher number of individuals who applies for the examination in 2019 compared to 2015. The data issued by the Hong Kong Society of Notaries shows the following:
- there were 293 individuals who applied for the examination in 2019;
- out of the total, 50 individuals passed both papers included in the examination;
- in 2015 the number of applicants was 240;
Investors, employees and other individuals will find that they will need the services of a notary public in Hong Kong on several occasions.
If you need legal assistance for drawing up documents, our team of lawyers in Hong Kong is here to help. Contact us if you have any questions about the services we provide or if you are in need of specialized assistance for a particular issue.