The below information should demonstrate that in German law there are two different types for generating official records: The form of certifying a signature and the form of notarization. In both cases, a document is officially signed. The legislative authority and the legal practice determine when which form will be implemented.
The certification of a signature is the “simpler” form. With the signature certification, the Notary Public respectively the Consular Officer confirm that the named individual signed the document in front of them. The signature must be done in person in front of the appropriate Consular Officer or must be recognized by him. The individual will not be instructed on the legal meaning of the document to be signed.
In many cases, in order for the document to be legally binding, certifying the signature suffices.
To give you some examples:
- Declaration of Consent, respectively authorizing a Power of Attorney (“Genehmigungserklärung” or “Vollmachtsbestätigung”): someone signed on your behalf a contract or declaration without having received the power of attorney from you. You are now asked to authorize this declaration retroactively, so that the contract will be legally binding.
- Simple Power Of Attorney (“Vollmacht”): power of attorney for which the individual gives a lesser authorization, e.g. power of attorney for a single legal transaction that can be revoked , e.g. simple inheritance declarations
- Entries in the trade register
- Requesting a certificate of good conduct
- Declaration for renouncing an inheritance
The following notarizations are excluded: full power of attorney (Generalvollmacht), health care proxy (Vorsorgevollmacht), living will (Patientenverfügung) – as a rule, these documents must be notarized.
To have your signature certified, please present the following documents:
- the document that has to be signed (the German Missions cannot draft this document on your behalf)
- for declarations of consent also the contract that has already been signed: for power of attorneys: proof of the value of the legal transaction
- a valid official photo-ID (passport, German ID card or U.S. 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 / individual, etc.
- your US driver's license, leasing contract or a utility bill in your name as proof of residence
Notarizing signatures by a Notary Public or Honorary Consul
Signatures can be usually also notarized by a U.S. “Notary Public”, however in some cases an apostille is required as well. Please clarify beforehand with the German authority in question, to whom you need to submit the document, whether an apostille is additionally required.
Signatures can be usually also certified by a German Honorary Consul. An apostille is not required.
The fee for certifying/notarizing a signature depends on the value of the legal transaction and can range between 20 Euros and 250 Euros. The fee can be paid with credit card in Euros (Visa or Mastercard) or in cash in US-Dollars at the daily exchange rate of the respective German Mission.
Scheduling an Appointment for Certifying/Notarizing the Signature
Whether you require an appointment for certifying/notarizing the signature, or if you will be able to come in during the regular opening hours without an appointment depends on the respective German Mission. Please check the website of the particular German Mission, go to “opening hours” to see whether you are required to have an appointment or not. You do not know which of our 9 German Missions serves your U.S. home state? Please go to consulate finder
An appointment is required for this Embassy and some other German Consulates General.
For some business transactions, certifying the signature does not suffice. The document must be notarized by the Consular Officer. A notarization therefore cannot be conducted by a German Honorary Consul or by a Notary Public.
Examples for legal transactions which require a notarization are:
- application for a certificate of inheritance
- application for a certificate of executorship
- sworn affidavit (e.g. in pension matters, loss of a driver's license, etc.)
- acknowledgement of paternity for a child born outside of a marriage
- obligation to pay alimony.
However: not all Consular Officers in the U.S. are authorized to conduct the desired notarization. Please check in advance with the German Mission that serves your U.S. home state to determine whether it is able to execute the desired notarization. In particular a full power of attorney (Generalvollmacht), health care proxy (Vorsorgevollmacht) or living will (Patientenverfügung) cannot be notarized by German Consular Missions in the U.S..
The fee for the notarization is based on the value of the legal transaction. You will be informed prior to your appointment as to what means of payment will be accepted and also the fee amount for the notarization.
Scheduling the Appointment for the Notarization
Every notarization has to be prepared and can only be conducted after having scheduled an individual appointment. Please check with the German Mission that serves your U.S. home state as to how to schedule the appointment. You do not know which of our 9 German Missions serves your U.S. home state? Please go to consulate finder
You must bring the following documents for the notarization:
- a valid official photo-ID (passport, German ID card or US-driver's license)
- if you do not sign in your own name, but rather in the name of e.g. a company, a ward, etc. additional proof is required (original or notarized copies) that you are authorized to present the company/Person;
- additional documents as required, after consulting with the Consular Officer that will notarize the document
Photocopies can be certified at the Embassy, at one of the Consulates General, by an Honorary Consul or a Notary Public if the original document is presented with the corresponding copies. If the copies are notarized by a Notary Public, please ensure that the Notary Public certifies on the copy that it is a true copy of the original (stating for example “I certify this to be a true copy of the original”).
Exception for California and New York
Photocopies notarized by a Notary Public from California and New York will in particular not be recognized by the Federal Administration Office (BVA). As a precaution we advise that you have the photocopies notarized/certified by the German Consular Mission which serves your U.S. home state.
Scheduling an Appointment for having the Photocopies Notarized/Certified
If the German authorities do not accept a notarization by a Notary Public and insist on having the documents notarized/certified by a German Consular Mission, please contact the German Consular Mission that serves your U.S. home State to schedule an appointment. You do not know which of our 9 German Missions serves your U.S. home state? Please go to consulate finder
An appointment is required for the Embassy and some German Consulates General.