Remote Notarization in the US

November 20, 2020
Antonio Flores

In the past few decades, people’s ability to view and verify documents has greatly advanced due to increased adoption of the Internet. Because of this, jurisdictions in different locations have begun legislating how the process of notarization, which is just a government employee verifying a signature, works online. With remote notarization, the notary never needs to see the signer in person, but only over a webcam. The process has proceeded at dramatically different speeds: some areas refuse to consider the prospect, others have released online notarization certificates for certified notaries, and still others allow ordinary notaries to do all their tasks over the Internet. In this article, we explore the adoption of remote notarization in the different states of the USA.

In the US, notary law is carried out at the state level. Since there are no civilian federal notaries, the federal government for the most part does not participate in the process. Currently, 25 states have passed laws relating to remote notarization, and the other states do not allow it. Of the states which allow remote notarization, 15 have fully implemented their laws. Most of these states require that the notary, the signer, or both be physically present in the state despite the process being remote. Often they require that the signer remotely verify their identity to the notary, but this is no different from how it is carried out in person. 

Beyond this, many states have restrictions on the process. In Arkansas, for example, notaries can only notarize remotely if they are a licensed attorney, licensed Arkansas title agent, supervised by a licensed attorney or licensed Arkansas title agent, or employed by a financial institution registered with the Arkansas State Bank Department. Most states are less restrictive, however. So far, three states, Florida, Nevada, and Ohio, make notaries take an extra course to become certified online. The rest allow ordinary notaries to perform their tasks online. In all states but New Hampshire, these laws are temporary, either until some given date or until the end of the Declaration of Emergency due to COVID-19. 

To conclude, in the US, many states have made the first steps towards allowing remote notarization. However, many states have not passed any laws, and the states that have greatly vary in what they are willing to allow, and even whether or not the changes will persist. It remains to be seen how states will continue to legislate on the subject of remote notarization in the future. 

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