A Complete Guide to Certified True Copy in Hong Kong

Have you been required to certify some of your company or personal documents? Look no further! This article provides a complete guide to certified true copy and other forms of notarization in Hong Kong.

When engaging in any business activity, regardless of its nature, there is a requirement to provide certified true copies of certain original documents. Certified true copies may be required on various occasion such as incorporating your company, applying for a company bank account or a specific permit.

Before we discuss how you can certify your original documents, it is vital first to understand what a certified true copy is and why you need it.

What is a certified true copy?

A certified true copy is a copy of an original document that is verified as being a complete, authentic and updated copy of the original at the date of certification. The document is stamped by a qualified professional to certify that the document is a true copy of the original.

However, it is important to note that a certified true copy does not confirm the authenticity of the original document. It only certifies that the copy in question is, in fact, a true copy of the original document. Common examples of documents that require certified true copies are birth certificates, passports and a driver’s licence.

Why is a certified true copy important?

Providing a certified true copy of original documents is a requirement when engaging in most business activities in Hong Kong as well as other jurisdictions. These activities range from applying to open a corporate account in any Hong Kong-based bank to using documents made and signed in Hong Kong for international transactions. Furthermore, the use of certified true copies goes far beyond commercial and business activity. It is often used in government proceedings or for legal purposes as well.

A significant advantage of having a certified true copy is that you do not have to risk giving up the original document. Especially in the case of identity documents as you can provide an attested copy instead. This point is extremely beneficial where the document contains confidential information or is used to confirm your identity as this avoids any risk of losing or damaging the original document.

Who can certify documents in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, a certified true copy will normally be accepted if it is issued by:

  • A certified public accountant
  • A lawyer
  • A public notary

Certain documents can also be certified as a true copy by:

  • An authorized officer of a court in Hong Kong
  • A practicing company secretary in Hong Kong
  • A consular officer of your home country (for non-Hong Kong residents)

What should your certified document look like?

The certified true copy document must be signed and dated by the appropriate certifier.

The certifier has to clearly print in capitals their name along with their position on the document. The document must also explicitly indicate that the document is a true copy of the original. Please see below for a sample of certification chop.

  certified copy hong kong

Lastly, the certifier usually stamps the document with a certified professional chop confirming its qualification.

The difference between certified true copy and certificate of incumbency?

Certified true copy and certificate of incumbency serve different purposes.

A certificate of incumbency is a document issued by an independent third party (usually a regulated professional). Its purpose is to independently confirm certain information about your Hong Kong company.

What is a notary public?

The Hong Kong High Court appoints a notary who must also be registered with the High Court on the Register of Notaries Public. All notary publics are regulated and governed by the Hong Kong Society of Notaries.

A notary is a certified professional who certifies and attests the authenticity of a range of different documents. These documents include contracts, passports, driver’s licenses, bank statements and other business transactions as well as documents relating to the purchase or sale of a property overseas. Notaries public are usually solicitors that have been practising for at least seven years who then get qualified and get appointed as a notary.

The primary function of a notary public is to help prevent fraud which is carried out through witnessing the signing of documents and verifying the identity of those who sign the documents.  This process also involves testing their awareness regarding the subject matter of the documents and judging their willingness to sign it in the first place.

Other services that a notary is generally responsible for include witnessing the declaration as Commissioner for Oaths and preparing and witnessing Powers of Attorney for a client’s use in foreign countries.

What is a notarized copy?

Notarisation is the official term used for the process used to avoid document fraud. The method of verifying documents detects any signs of fraud or elements of the document in question that needs further investigation or further clarification.

It is a necessary process for both businesses and individuals as failing to notarize a document renders it invalid and unacceptable. Firstly, this is a huge disadvantage as it can delay many business proceedings that require notarised documents. Secondly, suppose a document incorrectly notarised the first time. In that case, correcting the notarization process can be an inconvenience and quite costly as well.

The main difference is that certified true copies are only recognized within the country of certification, whereas notarized documents are globally recognized. In addition, a notary public can only certify a notarized copy.

Other forms of legalization: Apostille by the Hong Kong High Court

An alternate form of legalizing and verifying a document is through an apostille service.

You can use the apostille service to authenticate documents drafted in Hong Kong when you are required to submit them to an organization abroad. In most cases, apostilled documents will be a requirement when a resident of Hong Kong seeks to open a foreign corporate bank account.

The Hong Kong High Court provides an apostille service. The service is responsible for legalizing documents involving incorporating a company as well as documents previously signed and dated by notary publics and CPAs. There is a distinct apostille number allocated to each document which proves that the document in question is verified and authentic.

Get your certified copy

Are you required to provide someone a certified true copy of your personal or company documents?

At Air Corporate, we can help you determine who is the right person to prepare such certified copy (CPA, lawyer, notary) depending on its intended use.

Simply contact us at [email protected].

If you register your Hong Kong company with us, or appoint us as your company secretary, our certified true copy service includes the certification of your company or personal documents by a qualified partner law firm.

Focus on your business. We take care of the rest.

Vivian Au photo
Vivian Au

For many years, I worked at big accounting and company secretary firms in Hong Kong. I started Air Corporate to make the life of entrepreneurs and SMEs easy.

Vivian Au

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