What Identification document is best?


As a Notary Public, the importance of identifying your client is essential.

"Identification documents are wide ranging and can be tricky. Our role as a Notary Public gets complicated, and is not an easy one."

If you are faced with a resident of your own country, it is easy to rely on a local Passport and Driver Licence because you, as a citizen of that place, have an intimate knowledge of those important identity documents.

If you have been to one of the "Twilight Seminars" that I have run for the Society of Notaries of New South Wales, then you would have been shown some very handy techniques to determine if an identity document is a forgery or not.

But what about other identity documents and foreign identity documents?

This is where it can get really tricky.

You may not often see these and how do you best determine what to rely on? Are they forgeries or are they real?

Common identity documents

Common identify documents used worldwide include:

  • Passports (a cardinal or primary document)

  • Citizenship Certificate (another cardinal or primary document)

  • Driver Licences

  • Birth Certificates

As a Notary Public, you would have seen many foreign Passports and Driver Licences and might be relatively comfortable about the authenticity.

Other Types of Identity Documents

There are some less common identity documents.  These are the really interesting ones that you may not have encountered before. Such as:

  • Official Passports

  • Diplomatic Passports

  • United Nations Passports

  • Titres de Voyage

  • Certificate of Identity

  • Military Identification

  • Police Force identification

  • Diplomatic and Consular identification cards

  • State/Country and Local authority permanent resident cards

  • APEX Business Travel Cards

  • Green Cards

All of these I have seen and understand completely.  The is a complex set of rules about how these documents are issued and special care and attention must be given to them.  You can, as a Notary, rely on these documents to satisfy yourself as to a person's identity. 

To give you a brief understanding of some of these:

Official Passport

An Offical Passport is issued to someone who must travel internationally on official state business. These passports are issued specifically to people who need to travel, rather than to people who are being assigned or posted overseas.  Official passport holders who are posted to an Australian diplomatic or consular mission must be recognised by the host country as a member of the consular staff of the Australian mission before being afforded the rights and privileges as set out in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). The VCCR also requires third countries to afford people accredited to consular missions in other countries certain rights to enable them to travel freely through their country.

Diplomatic Passport

A Diplomatic Passport is issued only to people conducting diplomatic and official government business, and are restricted to people in specific categories and roles.  They are issued to facilitate the travel of people who are employed by or acting on behalf of a government.  A posting to a diplomatic mission must be recognised by the host country as a member of the diplomatic staff of the Australian mission before being afforded the rights and privileges as set out in the VCDR. Under the VCDR third countries are also required to ensure that people accredited to diplomatic missions in other countries can travel freely through their country.  

United Nations Passports

 There is a "laissez-passer" travel document (French for "let pass") which is similar in form to a national passport but identifies its holder as an official of a UN body or agency who is travelling internationally as part of their job.  These are red or light blue in colour and each  has a different meaning.  

The United Nations Headquarters in New York and the United Nations Office in Geneva issue United Nations Laissez-Passer, United Nations Certificates and United Nations Family Certificates to officials of the United Nations, including its Funds and Programmes, Specialised Agencies and other related organisations for the purpose of facilitating official travel.

To be eligible to be issued a Laissez-Passer, the applicant must be an “Official” of the United Nations or related organisation or of a Specialised Agency, such as the World Bank.

Titre de Voyage

A Convention Travel Document (CTD), also known as a Titre de Voyage, is issued to, for example, a non-Australian citizen who is resident in Australia and holds a refugee or protection visa issued by the Australian government or can present evidence of refugee status issued by the United Nations (UN) in accordance with the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 and its 1967 Protocol.

Certificate of Identity

A Certificate of Identity is issued, in the case of Australia, to a non-Australian citizen who is about to leave Australia and is stateless, or is unable to obtain a travel document from their country of nationality.

APEX Business Travel Cards 

These allow business travellers pre-cleared, facilitated short-term entry to participating member Countries. It removes the need to individually apply for visas or entry permits, saving valuable time, and allows multiple entries into participating economies during the three years the card is valid. Card holders also benefit from faster immigration processing on arrival via access to fast-track entry and exit through special APEC lanes at major airports in participating economies.  They are issued with the approval of a home government and have a photo.

So, be aware of your important role as a Notary Public.

If I can be of assistance to you providing Notary Public services or advice, please contact me on + 61 (2) 9279 1100 or email justin@betarlawyers.com.au 

Justin Betar