Frequently Asked Questions

ACCEPTABLE IDENTIFICATION

 When completing a certificate of acknowledgment or a jurat, a notary public is required to certify to the identity of the signer of the document. (Civil Code sections 1185(a), 1189, Government Code section 8202). Identity is established if the notary public is presented with satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity. (Civil Code section 1185(a) .


A. Identification Documents – The notary public can establish the identity of the signer using identification documents as follows (Civil Code section 1185(b)(3) and (4)): 

1.  There is reasonable reliance on any one of the following forms of identification, provided it is current or was issued within 5 years:   

  • An identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles; 
  • A United States passport; 
  • An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody in California state prison; 
  • Any form of inmate identification issued by a sheriff’s department, if the inmate is in custody in a local detention facility; or

2.  There is reasonable reliance on any one of the following forms of identification, provided that it also contains a photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number:   

  • A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship, or a valid passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship;
  • A driver’s license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses;   
  • An identification card issued by another state;
  • A United States military identification card (caution: current military identification cards might not contain all the required information); 
  • An employee identification card issued by an agency or office of the State of California, or an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California. 
  • An identification card issued by a federally recognized tribal government.   

 B. Oath of a Single Credible Witness. The identity of the signer can be established by the oath of one or two credible witnesses.  If there is just one credible witness, that person must be personally known by the notary. (Civil Code section 1185(b)(1))  

UNACCEPTABLE IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENTS

  • Paper or temporary driver's license
  • Driver's license without a photograph
  • Social Security Cards
  • Permanent Resident ID Card
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage License
  • Credit Cards
  • Business Cards
  • Club Cards


DOES NOTARIZATION MEAN A DOCUMENT IS TRUE OR LEGAL?

No. Notaries are not responsible for the accuracy or legality of documents they notarize. Notaries only certify the identity of signers. The signers are responsible for the content of the documents.


MAY A FOREIGN LANGUAGE DOCUMENT BE NOTARIZED?

A notary public can notarize a signature on a document in a foreign language with which the notary public is not familiar, since a notary public’s function only relates to the signature and not the contents of the document. The notary public should be able to identify the type of document being notarized for entry in the notary public’s journal. If unable to identify the type of document, the notary public must make an entry to that effect in the journal (e.g., “a document in a foreign language”). The notary public should be mindful of the completeness of the document and must not notarize the signature on the document if the document appears to be incomplete.  When notarizing a signature on a document, a notary public must be able to communicate with the customer in order for the signer either to swear to or affirm the contents of the affidavit or to acknowledge the execution of the document. An interpreter should not be used, as vital information could be lost in the translation. If a notary public is unable to communicate with a customer, the customer should be referred to a notary public who speaks the customer’s language.

WHAT IS A CERTIFIED SIGNING SPECIALIST?

The Certified Signing Specialist has a pivotal role in mortgage finance and real property transactions.  In addition to completing State requirements for a notary commission, the Signing Specialist completes additional background screening, education, and training regarding provisions of all relevant Federal laws and regulations pertaining to signing services; they also maintain all required commissions, bonds, and insurance. 


MAY A NOTARY PUBLIC "BACKDATE" A DOCUMENT?

Absolutely not! Backdating means to record that the notarization took place on a date earlier than the date it actually took place. Backdating is illegal and unethical. Prohibition is designed to protect the public and help ensure the credibility and integrity of transactions involving notaries. If asked or pressured to backdate a document, an ethical notary will decline to proceed performing the notarial act.


MAY A NOTARY PUBLIC REFUSE TO PROVIDE SERVICE TO SOMEONE?

The Notary shall, as a government and public officer and servant, serve all of the public in an honest, fair and unbiased manner. Only if the Notary is uncertain of a signer's identity, willingness or general competence, or has a good reason to suspect fraud can the notary refuse the notarization. Notaries should not refuse to serve anyone because of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer. Discrimination on any basis is not a suitable policy for a public official.  


CAN A BIRTH CERTIFICATE OR OTHER VITAL RECORD BE NOTARIZED?

Certified copies of birth, fetal death, death, marriage or other vital records may be made only by the State Registrar, by duly appointed and acting local registrars during their term of office, and by county recorders. (Health & Safety Code section 103545)  


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DISCLAIMER

  A notary must not act as an attorney if not licensed to practice law. I am not licensed to practice law and may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. This includes giving ANY advice regarding the transaction, preparing forms, explaining forms and their meanings, advising the signer of what type of notary act is required (oath or acknowledgment).