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Certifying documents

Information about the processes for certifying documents to say that they are genuine copies.

What does certifying documents mean?

Some copies of documents will not be accepted and recognised as genuine unless an authorised person has compared the copy with the original and attested to the fact that the copy is a true, that is, genuine copy of the original document.

From 1 March 2019, it is possible for an authorised person to compare a copy of a certified copy and to certify the document as such.

Who is a authorised to certify documents?

Anyone who is authorised to take an affidavit or witness a statutory declaration may certify a document. In addition to this a person may certify a document if they are empowered to do so by an Act. Other classes of authorised persons may be prescribed by the Regulations.

See s. 39—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Statutory declarations.

Certifying a copy of an original document

Before an authorised person certifies a copy of an original document they must:

  • check the original document carefully to make sure it is an original document, and
  • inspect the copy to make sure it is identical to the original document.

See s. 41—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Certifying a copy of a copy of an original document

It is now possible for an authorised certifier to certify that a document is a certified (that is genuine) copy of a certified copy of an original document. Before can authorised person certifies a copy of a certified copy of a document, they must:

  • check the certified copy of the original to make sure it appears to be authentic, and
  • inspect the copy of the certified copy of the original document to make sure it is identical to the certified copy.

See:

What is an original document?

An original document is one that an authorised certifier, using their best judgment believes is:

  • original, or
  • an official copy or extract of an original document from an official keeper of a register of official public record (such as a birth certificate extract from Births, Deaths and Marriages).

See s. 3—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Process of certifying

Once the documents to be certified have been checked, the authorised certifier can go ahead and certify the copy by:

  • legibly writing or stamping the copy with the prescribed words
  • signing and dating the copy
  • legibly writing on or stamping the copy with their name, qualification and address.

The address used may be their personal or professional address.

A certified copy will not be invalid, just because the certifier inadvertently failed to comply with all of the requirements, provided that the material nature of the certification is not affected.

See ss. 41, 42, 45—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Prescribed words

When certifying a document the authorised person must legibly write (or stamp) either:

  • Certified to be a true copy of the original as seen by me, or
  • Certified to be a true copy of another certified true copy as seen by me.

See schedules 5 and 6—Oaths and Affirmations (Affidavits, Statutory Declarations and Certifications) Regulations 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Documents with multiple pages

The certification process is slightly different if the document has multiple pages. The certifier must:

  • sign or initial each page to the copy (including any attachments)
  • number each page of the copy (for example, Page 3 of 23)
  • legibly write or stamp the prescribed words
  • sign and date the copy, and
  • legibly write or stamp the copy of the document with their name, qualification and address

See s. 43—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Foreign language documents

An authorised certifier may certify a document written in a language other than English, provided that they are satisfied that the copy and original documents are identical.

See s. 43—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Offences

A person can be charged or fined for certification offences under the Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018, even if the certifications were not carried out under this Act.

Wrongly certifying a document as copy of original

It is an offence to certify a document as a true copy of an original if the certifier knows that:

  • it is not a true copy of that original document.
  • the original document sighted was not an original document, or
  • the certified true copy was not a true copy.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is:

  • 600 penalty units and/or
  • 5 years jail.

See ss. 47, 48—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Value of penalty units.

False or misleading statements about certification

It is an offence to knowingly make a false or misleading statement about:

  • the circumstances of a process of certification, or
  • whether or not a certification was made.

Penalty

The maximum penalty is 10 penalty units.

See s. 49—Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Value of penalty units.

More information

Legislation

Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines an authorised certifier as a person authorised under Part 5
  • Part 5—Certification
    • s. 39—authorised certifiers
    • s. 40—how the certification scheme applies
    • s. 41—process for certifying copies of documents
    • s. 42—process for certifying a copy of a certified copy
    • s. 43—multiple page documents
    • s. 44—documents in a language other than English
    • s. 45—minor no-compliance does not affect validity
    • s. 46—clarifies that the offences apply to certification of copies of documents, is to
    • s. 47—offence to present a false copy of a document for certification
    • s. 48—offence to certify certain copies of documents
    • s. 49—offence to make a false or misleading statement as to certification of copy of document

See Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Oaths and Affirmations (Affidavits, Statutory Declarations and Certifications) Regulations 2018 (Vic)

  • s. 10—certified copies of documents
  • s. 11—certified copies of certified copies of documents
  • Schedule 5—prescribed words for certifying a copy of a document
  • Schedule 6—prescribed words for certifying a copy of a certified copy of a document

See Oaths and Affirmations (Affidavits, Statutory Declarations and Certifications) Regulations 2018 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Updated