What are certified identity documents and why would I need them?

So, you've been asked to provide certified identity documents. But what are they? And why exactly are they needed?

You may have been asked by a solicitor or firm you are using to obtain certified identity documents. This is so that they can identify you as their client, either because you are new clients to them, or because it has been a while since contact has been made. Sometimes it is needed because you want to change details on an account overseas, or perhaps have forgotten a password and locked yourself out of a bank account abroad. Whatever the reason, the firm will want to make sure the right person is requesting the action. This helps prevent fraud.

If you have a transaction taking place in the UK, you can usually make an appointment with the firm and they can check your documents in person, and make sure that it matches you. Covid-19 saw a pause in face-to-face meetings and new ways of identifying clients were made as well as improved. You may have been asked to complete an online identity check, using a passport and facial recognition or NFC checks if the in-person meeting wasn’t available. Some firms have retained their use and have adopted it as standard practice. Others haven’t and will therefore request that you take your documents to someone local and have them certified.

Within the UK, there are a variety of people who can do this for you, and notaries public are just one of these. I personally have two ways of presentation, the first being as most UK companies would expect to receive it. This is a photocopy of the original stamped as a true copy with an ink stamp, which I sign and date. The second is a little more formal whereby I add a notarial certificate. It does exactly the same job, but the latter will take more time and is more formal.

However, it is not just firms within the UK that ask for this, and many firms overseas will request the same. It could be a bank account, credit card, pension scheme or for shares, the list is long and as mentioned above, can be requested in order for them to ensure your identity has been confirmed and keep their due diligence files up to date. Unlike UK companies, the overseas firms will typically want to see it notarised. Many other countries use notaries a lot more often than we do in England and Wales and will expect to receive the documents in this way.

You should always double check the requesting firm’s request, and if in any doubt of what you need, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will have a look over it for you and let you know the best course of action in your circumstances.