Articles > Small Business

What is the Difference Between a Notary Public and a JP?

May 19, 2021   Dean WolmanPhilip Evangelou

Justices of the Peace (JP) and a Notary Public are different forms of public officers who can certify documents. Whilst their roles are similar in the sense that they both involve the certification of people’s identities and the authentication of original documents, there are some significant differences between a JP and notary publics in practice. 

One of the key differences between both public officers is the scope of their work. JPs are only able to certify documents in Australia whereas a Notary Public can certify documents both overseas and in Australia. In a simplified context, a Notary Public can basically be recognised as an international JP.

This article will discuss the nature of the roles of both a Notary Public and a JP and detail the key differences between them. 

What is a Notary Public?

Whilst Notary Public’s share a similar role to that of a JP, they have a much wider scope. This is because Notary Publics’ have the ability to draft, witness and authenticate national as well as overseas documents. 

Due to the added responsibility of Notary Public’s compared to a JP, the process of becoming a Notary Public is more complex and lengthy. 

Process of becoming a Notary Public:

  • Must have been a barrister or solicitor for at least 5 years 
  • Must complete a Notarial Practice Course 
  • Must apply through the Legal Profession Admission Board (LPAB) 

What is a JP?

A JP is a public officer acting as an independent witness to certify documents in Australia. The role of JPs include:

  • Acting as a witness to a person making a statutory declaration
  • Acting as a witness to a person making an affidavit; and 
  • Providing certification and authenticating copies of original documents 

Whilst lawyers are automatically entitled to act as a JP, you do not have to be a lawyer to be a JP. A JP can be any member of society, given the authorisation by the state to certify documents. However, whilst any member of society can become a JP, you must apply to the State Government and fulfill a number of requirements to be eligible. 

To satisfying these requirements you must:

  • Be over the age of 18
  • Be recognised for having good character 
  • Be an Australian citizen or someone who is eligible to vote at a general election 
  • Have a NSW Member of Parliament nominate you
  • Not be bankrupt 

Following this, there is an online knowledge test and application to be completed online. 

There will often be people who provide JP services at libraries, post offices, pharmacies as well as shopping centres. 

Key differences between a Notary Public and a JP

There are a number of key differences between a Notary Public and a JP. These differences include:

  • One must make an appointment to see a Notary Public whereas no appointment is required to see a JP. 
  • Notary public’s charge significant fees for their services whereas the services provided by a JP are free of charge. Acting as a JP is an act of community service. 
  • A Notary Public has much wider scope than a JP. A Notary Public will certify both Australian and international documents whereas a JP is only permitted to handle Australian documents. 
  • The process of becoming a Notary Public is more difficult than the process of becoming a JP. There are stricter requirements to become a Notary Public. 

What to take away from this article? 

Both a Notary Public and a JP are public officers whose role is to assist with the certification and authentication of a variety of important legal documents. However, whilst both public officers share similar roles, there are key differences which differentiate their roles. A JP is only able to review and authenticate Australian documents. However, a Notary Public has greater responsibility in which they are able to certify both Australian and International documents. 

When choosing whether to visit a JP or a Notary Public to review your documents, it is important to consider whether they are documents intended to be used locally or internationally. If the documents are for Australian use, you should consider visiting a JP as you won’t face the heavy costs incurred, should you visit a notary public. However, if your documents are intended for use overseas you should visit a notary public. 

If you need assistance with regards to the authorisation of both Australian and international legal documents, get in touch with us via the contact form or by calling 1300 337 997.

About Dean Wolman

Dean WolmanDean is a paralegal with OpenLegal. Dean works on a range of commercial law matters including contract reviews, startup fundraising, and legal issues concerned with early stage startups.

About Philip Evangelou

phillipPhil is a director at OpenLegal. He has over 16 years experience working in private practice and in-house counsel in Sydney and London, giving him expertise in employment law, IP, finance, leases, dispute resolution, insurance and contracts.