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Verification and Certification of Identity Documents

23 July 2020

Last month financial services provider Kiwi Wealth got in touch with us to highlight some issues they’d seen with the certification of documents.

The problem arose with documentation for people wanting to make specific Kiwisaver scheme withdrawals. When copies of identification documents were being certified, in some cases they were only certified as a copy of the original document and didn’t clearly state that the identification was of the individual.

Kiwi Wealth have asked us to reach out to the legal profession with some guidance that we have put together with them.

As a class of ‘trusted referees’ under the amended Identity Verification Code of Practice 2013 (the Code), lawyers may be relied upon by reporting entities to verify original identity documents and certify copies.

The Code requires reporting entities to verify the identity of a customer via a certified copy of the original, with wording which confirms the certified copy represents the identity of the person.

As our Practice Briefing for Certification and Verification under the AML/CFT Act 2009 explains, while there is no absolute rule setting out specific wording for certifying documents, lawyers must satisfy the reporting entity’s requirements that they have set to ensure compliance with the AML/CFT Act.

Most reporting entities rely upon the Code, which requires a trusted referee to sight the original documentary identification, and make a statement to the effect that the documents provided are a true copy and represent the identity of the named individual. This assists the reporting entities to comply with their onboarding and ongoing customer due diligence requirements under the Code and also under the AML/CFT Act.

Kiwi Wealth are now actively encouraging trusted referees to use verification phrasing which states the certified copy also represents the identity of the person, for example:

I certify this to be a true copy of the original which I have sighted, and it represents the identity of [Customer name].

The Law Society also has suggested wording for lawyers certifying documents.

For customers of other reporting entities:

I certify this to be a true copy of the original, which I have sighted, and the photo represents a true likeness of [the person presenting the document to me for certification] [OR] [customer’s name].

For lawyers own clients is:

I verify this to be a true copy of the original, which I have sighted, and the photo represents a true likeness of [the person presenting the document to me for verification] [OR] [customer’s name].

It is important to note a lawyer can only verify documents under the Code if it is being provided by the person named in that document or if they know that person in a personal capacity (subject to the exclusions which prevent trusted referees from certifying documents). This means a lawyer should not state that a document “represents the identity of the named individual” if it is provided by a third party – even if it is otherwise a true and accurate copy of the original.

Last updated on the 23rd July 2020