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Question & Answer Center

Here are some questions that are frequently asked by notaries public. For your convenience, we divided the FAQs into several categories. If an answer to your question is not listed below, please email us at members@usnotaries.com. Our members-only Help Center will research your question and respond within two business days.

Methods of Identifying Signers: Government-Issued Identification:

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  The law states that any current, U.S. government-issued identification card can be used to identify signers. What is a government-issued identification card?
Examples of U.S. government-issued identification card include current state driver’s licenses from any state, U.S. military identification cards, state-issued identification cards from any state, identification cards issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. passports. The identification card must be current and contain a photograph and signature of the card holder. Please note that U.S. passports are unacceptable form of identifications in Washington State and few other states.
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  Can I use an identification card issued by a foreign government—such as a Chinese passport, a Matricula Consular from Mexico, or an Instituto Federal Electoral Registro Federal de Electores (credencial para vota)— to perform a notarial act?
No. In most states, a notary public may only confirm the identity of a signer for notary services by a state or federal identification card issued by a United States government office. A notary public may not use an identification document issued by a government office from a foreign nation to establish the identity of a signer for the notarization of a document.
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  What does “satisfactory evidence of identification” mean?
Satisfactory evidence of identification means that the identification document that a notary public uses to perform a notarial act must: 1) be issued by a federal, state, or tribal government office; 2) be valid and current; 3) contain the photographic image of the bearer; 4) have an accurate physical description of the bearer; and 5) include the signature of the bearer.
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  Can a notary REFUSE to notarize a document for a signer who presented a valid U.S. passport and not a state driver’s license?
No. A notary public may not refuse to notarize a document for a signer who only has a valid U.S. passport. A U.S. passport is one of the identification cards issued by a United States government office that may be used to verify the identity of a signer for the performance of a notarial act.
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  Can a notary REQUIRE only a state identification card or driver’s license to provide notary services?
No. A notary public may use any state or federal identification card issued by a government office in the United States. A notary may also verify the identity of the signer by: 1) personal knowledge; or 2) on the oath of a credible witness. Check your state’s notary laws, or consult with an attorney for legal advice.
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  May I notarize a document for a signer who only has an expired driver’s license?
No. A notary may not use an expired driver’s license to establish the identity of a signer to provide notary services. The state-issued driver’s license must be current and contain a photograph and signature of the signer. A notary public who verifies the identity of a signer through an expired driver’s license may be subject to civil and criminal liability.
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  If I think the driver’s license is a fake, can I refuse to notarize the document?
Yes. A notary public who suspects that a driver’s license is a fake must decline the notarization. One of the notary’s responsibilities is to establish the identity of a signer through satisfactory evidence. A prudent notary public should examine a driver’s license thoroughly to determine whether it contains questionable fundamental information or noticeable fraudulent characteristics. If there is doubt, the better practice is to decline the notarization.
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  Can a notary public refuse to notarize a document because the person’s last name on the document is different from the last name on the identification card?
Yes. A notary public may not notarize a document if the notary cannot establish the identity of the principal signer through the state’s legal requirements of satisfactory evidence. The document requiring the notarization must contain the name of the signer in conjunction with the name on the state or federal identification card so that the notary can positively verify the identity of the signer.
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  Can I accept a driver’s license with an incorrect address when providing notary services? What if the signer provides a letter or bill showing his current address?
No. Many states statutorily mandate that a state or federal identification card must be current for a notary public to perform a notarial act. Many states do not specifically define what constitutes a “current” state or federal issued identification card. If a signer has an address change that is not reflected on his or her driver’s license, however, then obviously the driver’s license is not current. In such an instance, the notary must decline the notarization.
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  Can I use a driver’s license that contains the signer’s maiden name and not her current married name for a notarization?
No. If state’s notary laws specify that the state or federal issued identification card must be “current,” notaries public must comply with their statutorily satisfactory evidence of identification. A married signer who is still using a driver’s license with her maiden name is not using a “current” driver’s license, and the notary must refuse the notarization.
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  A signer presented an identification that had a first name of “William,” but he signed the document as “Bill.” Should I be adamant that he sign as “William”?
Yes. A notary must insist that a person’s signature agree with the name printed on the person’s state or federal issued identification card and with the name printed on the document for the notarization.
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  How can I determine whether an identification card is a fake?
A notary public should carefully examine the identification card for signs such as wear and tear, scratches, obvious erasures, liquid correction fluid marks, and raised edges on the card. If the issuance date is old but the card looks brand new, the identification card may be fraudulent.
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  Is it acceptable to notarize for a person who has a U.S. Green Card?
Yes. To establish the identity of a document signer, a notary public may use a “green card” issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide notary services as long as it is current and contains a photograph and signature of the signer.
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  Can a social security card be used to verify the identity of a signer?
No. A notary public may not use a social security card to establish the identity of a document signer for notary services. A social security card does not contain critical identification elements such as a current date, an accurate physical description of the bearer, a photograph of the bearer, or the signature of the bearer.
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  Can I use a birth certificate and social security card with an expired driver’s license to notarize a document?
No. A notary may not use a birth certificate and social security card with an expired driver’s license to confirm the identity of a signer for the execution of a notarization. In most states, to verify the identity of a signer for notary services, a notary public may only use one of the following acceptable forms of identification: 1) a current state or federal issued identification card from a United States government office; 2) the signer is personally known to the notary; or 3) on the oath of a credible witness who is personally known to the signer and notary.
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  Can a copy of a driver's license be used for identification to notarize a document for a person who is in the hospital?
No. A notary public may not use a copy of a driver’s license to confirm the identity of a signer to notarize a document. A copy of a driver’s license is not the original license issued by the state. Therefore, such copy does not suffice the “state or federal issued” standard of identification.
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  How can I verify the identity of a signer who has only a Mexico Matricula Consular or some other unacceptable form of identification?
In such cases, a notary public has two other options to verify the identity of the signer for the notarization of his documents: 1) the signer is personally known to the notary; or 2) on the oath of a credible witness who is personally known to the signer and notary. The notary must decline the notarization if the notary is unable to legally verify the identity of the signer by satisfactory evidence of identification.
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