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JP & Notary Public: What’s The Difference? – Lawpath

JP & Notary Public: What’s The Difference? – Lawpath

A Justice of the Peace (JP) and Notary Public perform similar roles, but they're different in terms of what they can witness. Read more here.

7th November 2019
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Justices of the Peace (JPs) and notary publics both certify documents. However, they are quite different in practice. Put simply JPs can only certify documents within Australia, whereas a notary public can draft and certify documents to be used overseas. In this article, we’ll discuss what the differences between a JP and notary public are and how to know which one you’ll need to certify your documents.

Justice of the Peace (JP)

Acting as a Justice of Peace is a community service and involves acting as an independent witness to documents. These are usually:

  • Statutory declarations
  • Affidavits
  • Original documents

The above documents can also be witnessed by a solicitor of the relevant state jurisdiction. However, JPs do not have to be solicitors – they are just members of society who have been authorised by the State to authorise documents. In order to become a JP, you must apply to the State Government. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Be an Australian Citizen or eligible to vote at a general election for the Legislative Assembly
  • Have good character
  • Be nominated by a NSW MP
  • Not be an undischarged bankrupt

After this, you have to undertake a knowledge test and complete your application online. You will need to include documents such as your birth certificate and passport.

Notary Publics

The role of a Notary Public is similar to a Justice of Peace, but they can draft and witness international documents. A notary public needs to have been a barrister or solicitor for at least 5 years. By contrast, lawyers who have been practicing for less than this time can carry out all the functions of a JP.

Notary Publics must also complete a Notarial Practice Course and apply through the Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB) to be a Notary Public.

Notary Publics can sign both local and foreign documents. These documents are sent overseas, to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), or to a Consulate or Embassy. This is bypassed in some countries who are party to the Hague Convention. You can find out which countries are part of this by checking the list of countries who are party here. If the country you require to use the document in is not part of this list, it must be legalised by DFAT. It may also have to be certified at the Consulate or Embassy of the foreign country where it will be sent.


A JP and notary public performs a similar role. The main difference is what they can witness. JPs can witness Australian-documents, whereas Notary Publics can witness both local and international documents. If you have further questions about authorising documents, it may be worth contacting a lawyer.

Don’t know where to start? Contact us on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest lawyer marketplace.

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.