How to Get a Document Notarized

Online Notary

In-Person Notarization

Traditional notarization is done with the signer and the notary standing in the same physical space in front of each other. Usually, this happens at a bank or other commercial provider of notary services. The ID verification is made by the notary who examines the government-issued photo ID presented by the signer. Then, the signer and the notary sign the paper document with a pen, also known as a “wet signature,” and the notary affixes a raised seal. The signer leaves with the original notarized document. Because notarial services are considered essential in most jurisdictions, traditional in-person notarization is available just as it was before COVID.

Note that some traditional in-person notarizations are done electronically. With electronic, or e-notarization, the signer and the notary must still be physically located in the same room at the same time, and the notary still does an in-person inspection of the signer's ID. The only difference is that the documents and the signatures are all electronic rather than wet signature and paper.

Remote Notarization

There are two methods for getting documents notarized without meeting in person: Remote Online Notarization (RON) or Remote Ink Notarization (RIN).

Remote Online Notarization (RON)

With remote online notarization, or RON, and also known as web cam or virtual notarization, the signer appears before the notary using two-way audio-visual technology over the internet using a platform like Zoom, Adobe Connect, or GoToMeeting. The entire process must be live and continuous with direct audio and video communication, all of which must be recorded and then stored for 5-10 years, depending on the state where the notary is commissioned. Before signing, the notary uses a third-party automated process, known as credential analysis, to verify certain security elements of the signer's ID. Additionally, some states also require ID proofing using knowledge-based authentication, or KBA. The exact procedures vary by state, but generally to complete ID proofing with KBA, a third party generates 4-5 questions based on the signer's credit reports and other personal data, which the signer must answer correctly in two minutes. Once that's done and the signer signs the document, the notary's signature must have a digital certificate issued by a third-party using public key infrastructure, or PKI, which verifies the identity of the notary who electronically signed the document and renders the document “tamper-evident.”

Remote Ink Notarization (RIN)

With RIN, the notary and signer appear before each other using a live, real-time video conference solution such as WebEx, GoToMeeting or Microsoft Teams. The notary identifies the signer using the methods allowed for traditional in person notarization used in that state. The signer signs the document and electronically transmits it to the notary by e-mail or fax during the video conference. The notary prints the document received from the signer and completes the notarial certificate in pen and ink. The notary electronically transmits the notarized document back to the signer during the video conference. In some states, like New York, if the signer and notary exchange a paper document by U.S. Mail, once the notary receives the signed document from the signer, they are allowed to backdate the notarization to the date of the recorded signing.

The Difference Between RON and RIN

Like RON, RIN requires that the signer and the notary meet live online using two-way audio video technology so the notary can witness and record signer signing the document. The ID/verification requirement is also different with RIN and RON. With RIN, the ID verification is done on the spot by the notary. There is no requirement for a third-party vendor to do the ID proofing/credential analysis. The signer simply holds the ID up to the camera so they notary can read it, record it and make sure the picture matches with the signer appearing on the video. Also, unlike RON, with RIN the signer makes a wet signature on paper and then transmits it to the notary, and the notary signs and seals the paper document, so there is no need to use a third-party vendor to issue a digital certificate for the signature. Finally, with RIN, the signer must be located in the same state unlike with RON, which only requires that the notary be physically present in the state where they are commissioned regardless of where the signer is located.

Where can I get a document notarized remotely?

Currently, 42 states have enacted permanent legislation authorizing remote notarization, either with RON or RIN—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Several states had temporarily authorized remote notarization through emergency orders, but have not enacted legislation now that those orders have expired--Connecticut (exp. 9/21), D.C. (exp. 9/21), Georgia (exp. 4/22), Mississippi (exp. 8/21), and Rhode Island (exp. 9/21). Delaware’s temporary order has also expired although permanent remote notarization laws that will go into effect there on August 1, 2023. In July 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the SECURE Notarization Act of 2022 (H.R. 3962), which authorizes RON in all states and sets minimum standards for performing notarizations online.

Is it better to get a document notarized in person or online?

Your circumstances dictate whether online notarization or traditional notarization is best for you. Some may find online notarization easier than traditional notarization because it can be done without leaving your home. However, for those who struggle with technology, a traditional in-person notarization might be easier. Likewise, because of the ID credentialing process, some signers may find RON invasive and time consuming, especially in states that use knowledge-based authentication questions as part of ID proofing.