The Notary Public in the UAE is a person authorized and licensed by the courts in the relevant Emirate to attest and notarize a limited number of documents. The term ‘notary public’ refers to both ‘public notary’ and ‘private notary’.
The Federal Law No. 4 of 2013 Concerning the Regulation of Notarial Services (Federal Law) regulates the practice of the notary public in the UAE. The Emirates of Abu Dhabi has issued its own Law No. (11) of 2017 Concerning the Notary Public in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi Law). The Abu Dhabi Law essentially reiterates the provisions of the Federal Law with minor variations to reflect the practice in Abu Dhabi.
1. Notarization vs. Witnessing of Signatures
The Federal Law stipulates that the Notary Public has the competence to notarize documents as required by the law and authenticate signatures of concerned parties.
It is important to note that, According to Article 43 of the Federal Law, all documents notarized with signatures by the Notary Public are required to be written in Arabic. Any documents that are written in a foreign language, they are required to be translated into Arabic through a legal certified translator. Thus, any documents to be notarized by a Notary Public are required to be issued either in Arabic language only or in bilingual format (i.e. English and Arabic) with a certified legal translation of Arabic by a translator licensed by the UAE Ministry of Justice.
In practice, any documents that are required to be presented outside the UAE are typically not required to be translated into Arabic and, therefore, cannot be notarized by a Notary Public in the UAE. The examples of these documents can be application forms, admission forms, bank forms, statements of oath, declarations and affidavits. These documents are thus witnessed by lawyers in the UAE. All third parties and government departments outside the UAE accept the witnessing of these documents by lawyers.
2. Notarization of Documents vs. True Copies Attestation
According to Article 44 of the Federal Law, the concerned person may obtain a copy of any documents kept at the Notary Public files or registered in the record. The Notary Public is thus only authorized to issue true copy attestation of those documents that are kept at the Notary Public files or registered in their record. The examples of these documents would be powers of attorney, declarations and contracts registered with the Notary Public in Arabic language (or in bilingual format, being English and Arabic).
The Notary Public in the UAE, therefore, does not have the powers to notarize or issue true copy attestation of documents such passports, utility bills, bank statements or any other documents that are not registered with him. Accordingly, all true copies of such documents are issued by lawyers in the UAE instead of a Notary Public and the concept of notarization of such documents does not exist in the UAE. Any third parties or government departments requesting for notarized copies of passports, utility bills, bank statements etc. accept the true copies of these documents issued by lawyers in the UAE.
3. General Scope of Powers of Notary Public
According to Article 4 of the Federal Law, the Notary Public in the UAE has the powers to:
- Write contracts and instruments.
- Authenticate the signatures of the concerned persons.
- Prove the date of common law documents as stipulated in the Federal Law.
- Tender the oath.
- Write and authenticate sworn statements.
- Notify the warnings and protests that he writes or authenticates the signatures thereof to the concerned persons upon their request according to the provisions of the Federal Law.
- Place the writ of execution on the instruments edited or authenticated by him according to the provisions of the Federal Law.
- Any other competencies assigned to him under another Law.
To reiterate, each of the above documents must either be written in Arabic language only or in bilingual format with English and Arabic translation duly certified by a legal translator licensed by the UAE Ministry of Justice.
4. Other Prohibitions on Powers of Notary Public
Article 13 of the Federal Law deals with duties and prohibitions of the Notary Public. According to this Article, the Notary Public in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other Emirates, among other things, is permitted to:
- Authenticate the signatures of the employees working in the federal government, local government, public authorities or public institutions.
- Write, authenticate signatures or prove the date of the instrument if the eligibility, capacity or satisfaction of the concerned person was not proved or if the subject of the instrument is apparently invalid, violating the legislations in force, the public order or morals or intended to commit an act of fraud, while stating the reasons of prohibition.
- Write or authenticate any contracts or instruments related to the personal status of Muslims or the Waqf.
- Write or authenticate any contracts or instruments related to the establishment of the right of ownership or any right in rem on a real estate, transfer, change or remove the same.
- Write or authenticate a contract of sale, donation or mortgage of a commercial shop before publication of the same in a daily newspaper widely spread in the UAE, fourteen days at least before conducting the transaction.
- Write or authenticate any contracts or instruments stipulated by the law that the writing or authentication thereof shall be the competence of another authority.
- Give any copy of the official documents to other than the concerned persons without the written permission of the President of the Court.
To conclude, if your documents are required to be presented outside the UAE, you will need to have the true copy of these documents issued by a lawyer instead of a Notary Public. This rule also applies to the witnessing of signatures on documents such application forms, affidavits, declarations and other statements that are issued in English language only.