One visit to the notary office may be enough

That is providing what you need is not too complicated. Many notary offices’ online systems and hotlines only offer a Chinese version of the simplified process, however.

To notarize a driving license issued in Shanghai before traveling abroad, you don’t have to visit local notary public offices repeatedly to inquire about procedures, submit materials and get notarized certificates, no matter if you are Chinese or a foreigner.

You only have to submit your identity cards or passports, residence certificates and the actual driving license to the online system of some local notary offices and then bring along all the original materials to the offices to get your notarized license or whatever certificates — such as birth certificates, academic diplomas or professional qualifications — that you need to be notarized.

The convenience is brought about by a pilot program launched by the Shanghai Bureau of Justice, encouraging notary offices to improve their inquiry services and utilize online platforms so that applicants only need to visit a notary once to receive their certificates.

Currently, four categories of "simple" notarization are eligible for the pilot program started in the Shanghai Oriental Notary Public Office and other notary offices in Xuhui, Yangpu, Changning, Minhang Districts and the former Zhabei area. It is due to expand across the whole city within a year.

These include notarization of birth certificates, identities and previous names, academic degrees and diplomas, professional qualification and job titles, as well as licenses and certificates.

Notary offices are required to inform applicants of all needed materials at once and not to go back to them to ask for further materials.

They are also asked to display all requirements online and to open hotlines or other online inquiry channels to make inquiries convenient for applicants.

At the Shanghai Oriental Notary Public Office, a major notary service provider in the city, simpler practices have been introduced in the past six years, according to Ding Wen, chief of its civil affairs division.

“We started accepting applications on our website in 2011 and added the service on WeChat in 2014 after the social media became popular,” he told Shanghai Daily.

Many people prefer the WeChat system now as it is convenient to take photos of the materials and submit directly, he said.

Ding also pointed out that notarization for wills, authorization letters and economic issues still follow the traditional procedures.

"We are now considering adding an English version to better serve foreigners in the future as there are more and more expatriates in the city,” he added.

The WeChat system of Shanghai Oriental Notary Public Office

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