The Exorbitant Cost of Getting a Document Notarized Abroad

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Two years ago, my wife and I disposed of 99% of our belongings in Florida and moved to Mexico. We now spend our days enjoying the white-sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Riviera Maya. We love it here so much that we rarely return to the old country.

Our prolonged absence from the U.S. can make it difficult to get certain things done. A recent example of this – and the inspiration for today’s post – came when a business in the U.S. asked me to have some legal documents notarized.

Where to Go

I discovered that there are very few options if you need to have something notarized outside of the country. The easiest one is to make an appointment at the nearest United States Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Office and have it done there.

Another possible option is to have the document notarized by a foreign notary and then have the document authenticated for use on the United States. The authentication certificate is called an apostille.

Since that second option seemed like more of a hassle, I decided to turn to Uncle Sam for some assistance. Lucky for me, the nearest U.S. Consular Office was only about 35 minutes away in Playa del Carmen.

I made an appointment for the following week and the whole process took less than 10 minutes.

Sticker Shock

Even though I didn’t expect the notary service to be free, I did expect it to be on par with notary fees in the United States — unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The federal government charges it’s citizens abroad $50 per notary seal. The document that I had required two notary seals, which ended up costing me a jaw-dropping $100 USD. I have to admit, I feel a little taken advantage of by my Uncle Sam.

The $50 fee charged by the government is actually 10 times more than the maximum notary fee permitted by law in the majority of states in the U.S. In case you were unaware of this, 42 states have enacted laws governing the fees that notaries can charge for their services.

Just for comparison purposes, here is a chart of the maximum fees permitted back home:

Let’s Wrap This Up

After this experience, I’ve decided that if I ever have to get multiple notary signatures again, I’m just going to spend the money on a plane ticket home to Florida and get it done for free at my bank. A round trip ticket to Orlando actually costs less than having six signatures notarized at a U.S. Consular Office.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) is a former lieutenant from the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida. During his 25-year career, he received numerous commendations to include two of the agency's top honors: a Meritorious Service Medal and a Medal of Valor. In 2015, Paul retired and moved to Mexico with his wife. He now spends his days enjoying the Riviera Maya and blogging from the beach.

19 Comments on "The Exorbitant Cost of Getting a Document Notarized Abroad"

  1. Hi Paul: here’s a link to Texas fees: https://www.sos.state.tx.us/statdoc/edinfo.shtml
    It is very disconcerting when that happens to a US citizen by a US entity.

    • It would be nice if they reduced their fees a little since we’re a captive audience with few other options.

  2. As a real estate broker, I’ve run into this before with clients who are trying to close a deal while out of the country. It really is best to have it done at the embassy or consular offices as sometimes the apostille causes concern to the county who is recording the deed. I knew it was a pain (and some are quite a distance from an embassy or consulate + you may have to wait weeks for an appointment!) but I had no idea it was so expensive!

  3. LOL. Yes, we discovered the same when living in another country. It’s also annoying when you find that many countries’ consulates provide the service free for their expats. Thanks for publishing this!

  4. Stephen Slater | July 28, 2017 at 11:27 am | Reply

    It is important to understand what a notary actually does, in particular if you are going to compare fees. In the US, a notary merely validates the signature, and does not validate the accuracy or validity of the document. This is a very narrow scope of responsibility and liability exposure. On the other hand, when you have a document notarized at a US Consul or Embassy, in a foreign country, the acting agent insures the document does not violate the laws of that country, that you are who you say you are, that you are of capacity/sound mind and in certain cases, the validity of the document (they have the capacity to do so).

    Much like there is an enormous difference in a US Notary, and a Mexican Notario (another article for you Paul), the Acting Agent and the Embassy falls somewhere in-between these two, in terms of capacity. As such, believe it or not for US$50, relative to the liability and responsibility the Acting Agent assumes and provides, you are getting a very good deal !

    • Great explanation but I still think the service should be less expensive since the entity is taxpayer funded and here to help us.

      For 25 years I worked as a deputy sheriff and much of that time I was the shift commander. The nature of the job exposed me to personal liability and possible injury on a daily basis. I also had to ensure that the law was being obeyed in situations where the liability was much greater (e.g. search warrants, pursuits etc). If I made an error, I was subject to both civil and criminal penalties. In spite of that, I went out any provided services for free to both taxpayers and non-taxpayers. I really think that the federal government should extend its citizens abroad the same courtesy.

    • Steven…if that is a good deal…I have some other “good deals” for you here in Ecuador. Even Notaries visiting here are not allowed to notarize your signature (more proof that they are keeping their audience captive). It would be easy enough to adopt the US system here, as in my community there are more than 10,000 expats…nope….keep charging an arm and leg. Not to mention you have to drive 4 hours to get to the consulate near me (no flights between where the expats live and the consulate). For a service that is supposed to help Americans abroad, here in EC they are failing.

  5. Thanks again for sharing another important tip. I am planning on moving to Mexico in three years so all your info is invaluable.

  6. Marc S Feinstein | July 28, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Reply

    It is because of your stories like yours and other US persons outside of the US that in 2016 the Uniform Law Commission approved an amendment: Foreign Notarization Amendment to the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts. The next step is for each respective state, DC, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico legislature or law making body to approve and enact the uniform act into its state laws. You can find an “issues memo” and the approved language of the Act at this website. http://www.uniformlaws.org/Committee.aspx?title=Notarial%20Acts

  7. Paul–

    Most states will let you use an online notary. Google–online notary or online acknowledgements.

    John

  8. The good ole government just screws you over every chance they get, doesn’t matter where you are.

  9. Marie Bombardiere | July 29, 2017 at 7:12 am | Reply

    Thank you for the article, it was very helpful!

  10. Hey Paul I had to do the same thing last week and can tell you that the Canadian Consulate in PDC also has a $50 per stamp fee. The exact papers that cost me $150 to have notaries here cost my step daughter $55 to have done in Canada. My 150 is a bit steep when compared to what she paid but still a fraction of a flight back to Canada.

    • That’s a ridiculously high fee for an taxpayer funded entity whose primary purpose is to help the country’s citizens abroad.

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