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Notarization in Mainland China and Hong Kong China-Appointed Attesting Officer

Public Notary Office (Chinese: 公证处) is a subordinate agency of the Ministry of Justice of the People's Republic of China. It is responsible for certifying documents according to Chinese legal system. Examples of services offered are certification of Birth Certificates, identification cards, Household Registration documents, Driver's License, Police Records, Health Records, Property title, power of attorney, guarantor documents, authorization documents, declaration documents, lottery tickets certification and business licenses. If you need to notarize document originated or executed in Hong Kong, you will have to find some China Appointed Attesting Officer, Holding Current Practising Certificate, Notary Public (member of the Hong Kong Society of Notaries.

Purpose of Notarization

The functions of the Public Notary Office is classified into 4 functions.

1. To safeguard the smooth process of the state economic restructuring and economic construction, maintain the order of socialist market economy.

2. To protect lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organizations, prevent disputes and minimize litigation.

3. To develop notary standards and promote the process of the international civil and economic activity. To protect lawful rights and interests of citizens, organizations, overseas Chinese and foreigners.

4. To inform and educate the legal knowledge, improve legal sense of the people, maintain the legal system and guarantee the correct implement of state laws.

Notarization in Mainland China

There are many document can be notarized by the embassy such as Company Incorporation Documents, Business Registration Documents and Identity Documents, those notarized documents can be used on business, investment, loan, property, mortgage and trading. A well-notarized document can you to start business oversea, study aboard, marry abroad, and get inheritor identity. Notarization helps applicant to make their document legalized oversea.

How it works: According to international customary practice, foreign affair department or embassy will sign on the last page of the documents to ensure the document is authorized by the government department and is legal. The main purpose for notarization is to get a document to be legalized outside its issued country, by doing notarization, other country will accept it is a legal documents or license. The notarization normally needs to be chopped by the issued country related department then bring the chopped document to get approve to the embassy of the country you want the document to be legal in, and get their signature or chop. While some countries have special notarized arrangement under international agreement, only document issued country reorganization will make the document legal oversea.

Reason for Notarization: Notarization is recognition of a foreign document by a foreign affair department. The foreign affair department officer will stamp or sign on the document to prove its truth. After getting through the notarization, the document will then become legalized in the specified country of the foreign affair department.

International customary: According to International customary, business documents or certificates should be notarized in order to get foreign recognition. For examples, documents should get recognition of truth in the foreign affair department in China then go to the specified China Embassy of the country you want to use the document and get the document legalized by signing or stamp by the embassy officer (this notarization process must be done in order to get documents legal in foreign country unless countries have special arrangement with China).


Current Situation:

There are lots of documents need to be notarized and for many different purposes. Such as Certificate of Incorporation, Business Registration, Identity prove documents and other business documents, the documents uses include investment, loan, property, mortgage and meeting other business activities requirements. By Notarization, you can do business, study abroad, immigration, marriage and get inheritor identity. Notarization helps to smoothen international business activities, which help to improve international economy development.

Notarized documents (Hong Kong Company, BVI Company, UK Company, US Company or other oversea company can apply notarization for their company documents for company oversea business registration, investment, or other legal purpose) can be used for loan, property activities, mortgage or other trading business.

Notarization process:

1) Applicant can bring the documents to our company personally or post the documents to our office.
2) We will take a first examination for the company documents or certificate which ensure they meet the requirements for notarization and the truth of those documents
3) After our examination, we will send the document to the related department to get authorized person to sign or stamp on the document to prove its truth. We will then send the signed or stamped document to the specified embassy to carry on the legalization.
4) If there is no embassy of the specified country setup yet, we will send the document to the foreign affair department, the foreign affair department will then help to continue the notarization process.

China Notary Public Service

History: Hong Kong legal foundation is the Common Law System, on the other hand China Law is influenced by the Civil Law System, so there are differences between two legal systems especially the notarization system.

Hong Kong adopts the Common Law System of UK, and there is no “notary public” in the legal system. Also many law is based on the previous case, there are no unified notarization system, notarization can be carried out by lawyer or other professional. The notarization is just a very narrow business, they only sign to show their witness and try their best to identity the document is truth, and they do not take responsibility for the content of the documents. However this system ran for years and this business is an international nature, most of the notary had their name and signature registered in many embassy, so they also known as “international notary”. China Law is influenced by the Civil Law, so the notarization is more systematic. There are also authorized notary organizations in charge of notarization. Those organizations have the responsibility to investigate the truth of documents they notary, they have to take legal responsibility if they make any mistake.

From the above we can understand the difference between the legal system of Hong Kong and China. Before 1984, when Hong Kong resident want to notary their document for China affair, they can only get help from Hong Kong branch of China Company or Organization (such as China Resource, China Travel Service, etc) or some China branch of Hong Kong Organization (such as The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, etc) for notarization.

In the early 80s, China started the economic reform, the economy activities between two places become more and more active, and this leads to a rapid increase on the demand for notary in order to protect legal rights. The Ministry of Justice P.R.C. contacted some Hong Kong lawyer through Department of the CPC Central Committee (currently know as Coordination Department) of Xinhua News Agency Hong Kong Branch (currently known as Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) in order to assign the qualification for notary of Hong Kong documents.

At the beginning stage, as it was still at the testing period, only 8 lawyers who have better understanding of China Law had been appointed to be authorized notary person, they are known as China-Appointed Attesting Officer.

Current Situation: Many Hong Kong documents can be notarized to be legal document in China now, such as marriage, inheritance, adoption and other civil case, this also include investment, loan, property, mortgage or other business documents. By notarization Hong Kong document can be legalized in China and help to protect legal right of applicant and smoothen economy activities between Hong Kong and China.

Difference between Notarization of China Notary Public and Hong Kong China-Appointed Attesting Officer.

In China, notarization means Government Authorized Notary Department prove the truthfulness and legality of particular document appointed to applicant request. Notarization Office is a government department, different from private certificate, documents of the notarization office is an official document recognized by the government. All staff in the notary public is member of government officer, they cannot do notary as a lawyer, and regulations and laws restrict them. Notary public enjoy investigate power, when notary public believe the applicant is not providing enough information or believe the document is fake, they can start investigation and get documents from related department without approved by applicant. The notarization document in China is authorized in “Certificate” method.

In Hong Kong, China-Appointed Attesting Officer(香港律师公证) carries out notarization according to the request of applicants. Officers are requested to prove the notarized documents are true and legal. Officer is appointed by Ministry of Justice P.R.C., and notary documents are on the behalf of their own. They have responsibility to exanimate the truthfulness and legality of the documents provided by the applicant, but can only verity the document by power authorized in Hong Kong Law. So notarization document in Hong Kong is authorized in “Declaration” method. hina-Appointed Attesting Officers (“Attesting Officers”) are qualified Hong Kong lawyers who have been appointed by the Ministry of Justice of the People's Republic of China after passing the prescribed qualifying examinations. Their scope of business includes attesting and certifying acts, matters and documents of legal significance occurring in or emanating from Hong Kong and such attested documents are for use in Mainland China. The namelist of all China-Appointed Attesting Officers are available at the Office and Website of the “Association of China-Appointed Attesting Officers”.

To be legally valid and protected by the laws of the PRC, attested documents issued by Attesting Officers for use in Mainland China must be sent to the “China Legal Services (H.K.) Limited” for “Sealing and Transfer Delivery”.

Service Areas:

Notarization Documents done by China-Appointed Attesting Officer can be divided into five types: Declaration, Verified signature of legal documents, Verified true of incidents, Verified document original and copy, Verified signature of documents of multi-parties. Content includes but not limited to:

  • Marriage declaration with China resident
  • Declaration for applying China relative to come to Hong Kong
  • Declaration of estate inheritance (giving up inheritance)
  • Declaration of recognition of couple (marriage) relationship
  • Declaration of China resident adoption
  • Declaration of financial guarantee for China resident to study abroad
  • Authorization letter
  • Letter of grant
  • Company authorization letter
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Certificate of director(s) meeting decision
  • Property transaction contract
  • Mortgage contract
  • “Hong Kong Service Supplier” documents notarization


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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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