If you are overseas and require a document or signature to be verified or witnessed for use in Australia, or are in Australia and need verification or witnessing of a document for use overseas, you may need to contact a Notary Public instead of a Justice of the Peace. Find out more about the differences between a Justice of the Peace and a Notary Public.

What is a Justice of the Peace?

A Justice of Peace is a volunteer which acts as an independent witness to documents which are to be used for legal purposes. This role generally includes: witnessing oaths, witnessing legal documents such as powers of attorney, wills, deeds, contract or affidavits, taking statutory declarations and affirmations, witnessing signatures, attesting the execution of a document or certifying a true copy of an original document. Examples of this could include when you are required to make a certified copy of your passport or need to sign a contract or make a statutory declaration. You can find a list of Justices of the Peace near you here.

What is a Notary Public?

The role of a Notary Public is very similar to a Justice of Peace. However, they are generally a practising lawyer appointed by a State or Territory Supreme Court. Lawyers can automatically carry out the same role as a Justice of Peace but must be a lawyer for at least 5 years, complete the prescribed Notarial Practice Course and must apply through the Legal Profession Admission Board to be a Notary Public.

In practice, the main difference between a Notary Public and a Justice of Peace is that a Notary Public’s signature and functions are recognised nationally and internationally. For this signature to be recognised internationally it must be ‘legalised’. This requirement is bypassed in certain countries through being party to a Convention. You can find out which countries are part of this by checking the list of countries party to the Hague convention here. If the country you require to use the document in is not part of this list, it must be legalised by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and may also have to be certified at the Consulate or Embassy of the foreign country to which it is to be sent depending on their requirements.


If you have recently travelled overseas and need to execute, copy or attest a document for use in Australia, or are in Australia but need to do the same for the use of a document overseas, you will need to use a Notary Public instead of a Justice of the Peace.

Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from our network of 750+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Mikail Mermi

Mikail is a Paralegal working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for increasing access to justice and how technology can enhance this, his research explores how the law is adapting to emerging technologies and how this affects consumers and businesses alike.