Council members Mike Scannell, Ken Lord and Don Thomas recently met with James Mose, team leader for the Department of Internal Affairs’ Authentications Unit responsible for Notaries in New Zealand.
The meeting was a part of the regular dialogue the Council maintain with the Unit to discuss matters concerning our interactions with the Unit. More recently Council’s concern has been the long processing times being taken to complete Apostilles and Authentications.
Like all businesses in New Zealand the Unit has been struggling as a result of lockdowns, staff shortages and staff illness. Currently the Unit comprises 14 staff who are responsible for Passports, Births Deaths and Marriages and Citizenship as well as Authentications. The staff are rotated or moved within the Department according to need so the Unit has been taking second place to Passports and Citizenship recently.
Despite this, the Unit last year processed 11,214 Apostilles, 3,644 e-Apostilles and 6,501 Authentications. This year the numbers to date are 6,609, 2,354 and 3,013 respectively.
In response to our concerns regarding processing times James advised the Unit now has a branch in Auckland. Also improved staff experience and training has meant processing delays of 4 weeks plus have been reduced to 2-3 weeks. The aim is to reduce that to 3 days internal time taken.
In response to our question of what Notaries (and lawyers in general) can do to help the response time, was simple. Please help by:-
- reducing the number of telephone enquiries; and
- making sure documents being submitted are in order.
Presently the Unit staff spend the equivalent of one full-time staff member on telephone calls. Calls that could be avoided if the profession and public made better use of the Unit website, https://www.govt.nz/browse/passports-citizenship-and-identity/proving-and-protecting-your-identity/use-your-nz-documents-overseas. The bulk of the questions staff are dealing with are answered on the site.
In addition, the Unit staff are having to reject too many faulty documents. While most of these documents are received direct from the applicant(s), a Notary has been involved who must make sure the documents are complete and correct. Common errors include:
- submitting documents not requiring/able to be authenticated;
- Notaries not completing proper Notarial Acts; and
- all pages of the document not being marked with the applicant’s and Notary’s signatures/initials and stamp.
In the Unit’s words the minimum requirements include the following:
- Statement which sufficiently describes what the Notary has done and is readable.
- Name and Signature of the Notary.
- Seal of the Notary.
- Date the Act was executed.
- Place the Act was executed.
- Any underlaying document(s) match what is said in the Notarial Act and it is clear the documents were seen by the Notary, ie at least signed/initialed on each page (and stamped).
Can all members please:
- avoid unecessary calls to the Unit, check the website or refer inquirers to it; and
- take more care in the documents we are processing that will be sent to the Unit.
Please help the Unit to speed up the process for the benefit of ourselves and our applicants.