eNotarisation – a work in progress
An eNotary is a Notary Public who delivers finished and finalised notarised documents in a reliably secure digitally signed electronic format (secure PDF), instead of, or as well as, in in the traditional way by post or courier in hardcopy.
The eNotarial process does not at all do away with or avoid all the strict and secure requirements for personal attendance that have always been essential when notarising documents.
Where, as is most commonly the case, what is being notarised is the signing of a document, that is still effected exactly as it always has been, by the individual signing in the sight and presence of the Notary, no exceptions. After that the finished document is then securely digitised so that it can be delivered electronically, usually by email, and usually also the hardcopy document is later delivered by post or courier. Such digitisation by eNotaries commonly utilises both a visible digital signature looking just like the conventional Notarial signature, stamp and seal (to provide confidence), as well as a “behind the scene” secure digital signature (to provide reliability).
The published eNotarised digital document usually consists of a standard PDF document that has several layers of authentication added, first among which is that strong visible digital signature. The invisible underlying digital signature involves a personalised fob (looking for all the world like a memory stick), which is issued by one of the many licencees of Adobe Corporation worldwide, containing a highly secure password known only to the eNotary in question, who in turn has been validated, not only by Adobe though its worldwide network, but also by the Chief Justice of Ireland as President of the Supreme Court. This maintains and even enhances the integrity of the process.
The potential need just now for electronic eNotarisation is growing, spurred on by, of all things, Covid. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office started issuing the eApostille, as the digitised version of the conventional Apostille, in October 2021, but for now just in quite limited circumstances. Tús maith leath na hoibre. In time it is hoped that the Department of Foreign Affairs will also begin to issue the eApostille. This will take the form of an electronic appendix (technically, an “allonge“) to the eNotarial PDF file, and forms part of the file. Put together, the new eNotarial act bearing the eApostille will be quicker, cheaper and easier than what we have been used to for centuries. At that point it is anticipated that the demand will expand exponentially for the eNotarial Act and eApostille, and there will be no going back.
eNotary in Ireland
David performed Ireland’s first ever eNotarial act in February 2010, and for years encouraged others to acquire and utilise the special skills of the eNotary. He was among a small group foremost in the movement to introduce and encourage eNotarial services in Ireland and which in particular, was engaged in dialogue with relevant government agencies. Regrettably, with the failure of many nation states, including Ireland, to adopt the eApostille, the eNotarial concept has, as of early 2022, as yet enjoyed very limited application, but we live in hope.
The electronic Apostille | eApostille
New Zealand was the first country to issue eApostille. In Europe it was The Superior Court of Murcia (Spain) who issued the first electronic Apostille (eApostille) in 1998. This Apostille, issued within the framework of an international adoption procedure, is perfectly consistent with the model proposed under the eAPP (Electronic Apostille Pilot Program).
First and easiest step in the development of the eApostille in any country is the eRegister of Apostilles allowing anyone anywhere to verify on line that an Apostille is genuine. Irish Apostilles can be checked in this way on the Irish such eRegister. Well done Ireland.
The main challenges with the Electronic Apostille Pilot Program (eAPP) are:
- What is a digital signature?
- How does a Competent Authority use a digital certificate to sign eApostilles?
- How does the recipient of an eApostille verify its origin, including the current status of a Competent Authority’s digital certificate?