Signature Certification, Notarization of Copies and Full Notarization of a Document
The certification of the signature is the "simpler" form. By certifying the signature the consular officer confirms that the person indicated in the document signed it in front of him. The signature has to be given in person in the presence of the consular officer or has to be acknowledged in his presence. No advice about the legal meaning of the document to be signed is provided.
In many cases, the signature certification is sufficient for the document to become effective.
To give you some examples:
- declaration of approval ("Genehmigungserklärung"): declaration by which a person approves a declaration / contract signed earlier on his behalf by somebody else
- "simple" power of attorney ("Vollmacht"): power of attorney relating to everyday legal transactions or business, e.g. revocable power of attorney for a specific legal transaction trade register entry
- application for a certificate of good conduct
- declaration of renouncement of succession ("Ausschlagung einer Erbschaft")
To get your signature certified, please bring with you:
- the document to be signed
- for declarations of approval: the contract which has been signed earlier in Germany
- a valid official photo-ID (preferably passport, in case you do not have one, bring your US-driver's license)
- if you are not acting on your own behalf, but on behalf of e.g. a company, a ward, etc., please bring a document (original or certified copy) stating your power of attorney for the company / person, etc.
The fee for the signature certification depends on the value of the legal transaction for which the document is needed and ranges between € 20,- and € 250,-. The fee is converted into US $ according to the daily exchange rate at the German mission and can be paid by cash or by credit card.
For signature certifications you may come to the competent German mission during visitors' hours without prior appointment (except for the Consulates General in Chicago, New York and San Francisco which require you to make an online appointment).
Signature certifications can also be done (for the same fee) by a German Honorary Consul.
Signature certifications will in some cases also be recognized under German law if done by an American notary public. Please make sure in advance that the German authority, to which the document shall be presented, does accept this procedure. Authorities in Germany may request an "apostille" in addition to the signature certification done by a US notary public.
Notarization of copies
Notarized copies can be made at the Embassy, one of the Consulates General, by an Honorary Consul or a notary public when the original document is presented. If the copies are notarized by a notary public, please make sure that the notary public certifies on the copy that it is a true copy of the original (i.e. for example "This is a true copy of the original")
The full notarization is the "stronger" form to set up an official document. While notarizing a deed, the consular officer also confirms the identity of the person appearing, but he will furthermore provide advice to the person signing about the legal meaning and consequences of the declaration to be notarized.
The text to be fully notarized will be drafted by the competent German mission on the basis of the information provided by you in advance, possibly (but not necessarily) on the basis of a draft by a German notary or lawyer. The notarization cannot be done ad hoc, but only after arranging an appointment at least several days prior to the notarization.
Examples for legal transactions which require a full notarization are:
- irrevocable power of attorney relating to real estate matters
- sworn affidavit (e.g. in pension matters, loss of a driver's license, etc.)
- application for a certificate of inheritance
- contract for selling or transferring real estate
- transferring an inheritance share to someone else
- acknowledgement of paternity for a child born outside of a marriage
- deed regarding child support.
To get a document fully notarized, please bring with you:
- a valid official photo-ID (preferably passport, otherwise US-driver's license);
- in case you are acting on behalf of e.g. a company, a ward, etc., please do also bring along a document (original or certified copy) stating your power of attorney for that company / person, etc.
- additional original documents as required (prior consultation with the notarizing consular agent is highly recommended).
The fee for the notarization depends on the value of the legal transaction it is needed for and can be enquired in advance. The fee, calculated in €, will be converted into US $ according to the daily exchange rate at the German mission and can be paid in cash or by credit card. The full notarization cannot be executed by a German Honorary Consul.The full notarization in accordance with German law cannot be lawfully executed by an American "notary public".