Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Notary?
A responsible person appointed by state government to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths.
Can a Notary refuse to serve people?
Only if the Notary is uncertain of a signer’s identity, willingness or general competence, or has a good reason to suspect fraud. 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.
What do I need to have a document notarized?
For a document to be notarized, it must contain:
- Text committing the signer in some way.
- An original signature (not a photocopy) of the document signer, signed in front of the Notary.
- A notarial “certificate” which may appear on the document itself or on an attachment. This document needs to have the required disclosure notice that California requires to cut down on fraud.
The Notary fills in the certificate, signs it, then applies his or her seal to complete the notarization.
What are acceptable forms of identification?
Each signer is required to show a valid government-issued ID, or an ID that has been issued within the past 5 years [Civil Code Section 118(c)(3)&(4)]. Identification must have a photograph, description and signature of the person, as well as an identifying number.
Acceptable Forms of Identification Include:
- An identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
- A U.S. passport issued by the State Department of the United States.
- A U.S. Military ID may be used as long as it contains an identifying number and the photograph, signature and physical description of the bearer, and is current or issued in the past five years. If there is an issuance date in the last 5 years, it is acceptable without an expiration date.
Other state-approved identification card consisting of any one of the following, provided that it also contains a photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number:
- A passport issued by a foreign government, provided that it has been stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.
- A driver’s license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue a driver’s license.
- An identification card issued by another state.
- An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections, if the inmate is in custody.
Can a expired form of identification be used?
Civil Code Section 1185 (b)(3) states that California Notaries can accept a driver’s license if it is current or has been issued within the past five years. If the issue date is more than five years past, then some other types of valid acceptable forms of identification will need to be provided by the signer.
What if the signer has no forms of identification?
Two credible witnesses that personally know the signer in the case where the document signer lacks ID. The credible witnesses cannot be named in the document and cannot have financial interest in the document. Both credible witnesses must have proper identification.
Can I get a Birth Certificate certified?
A notary public cannot certify copies of vital records, such as birth, marriage or death certificates. However, a notary public can administer an oath or affirmation and give a jurat for an affidavit that states the birthdate or age of the affiant, and/or includes a photograph of the affiant and/or fingerprints or thumbprints of the affiant. In effect, a signer can certify their own vital information by swearing to the contents of a document containing that information.
If the notary public gives a jurat for a document that includes the signer’s birthdate or age and a photograph or their finger or thumb print, the notary public must require the signer to verify their birthdate or age by showing a certified copy of the signer’s birth certificate or an identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. (California Government Code section 8230.)
What type of documents cannot be notarized?
- Immigration documents
- Blank/incomplete documents
- Documents that do not require a signature.
- Documents that do not indicate which notarial act to perform, and for which the client cannot choose which notarial act they desire.
- Birth Certificates.
Can I get a document notarized that is in a foreign language?
A notary public can notarize a signature on a document written in a foreign language, whether or not they are familiar with the language, since a notary public’s function only relates to the signature and not the contents of the document. However, a notary public must be able to communicate with the customer in order for the signer to swear or affirm the contents of an affidavit or to acknowledge the execution of a document, as well as to enable the notary public to obtain proper identification of the signer and to complete the required journal entries. An interpreter should not be used because 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. (See generally California Civil Code sections 1189 and 1195; California Government Code sections 8202, 8205 and 8206.)
The notary public should be able to identify the type of document 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.” As in all cases, the notary public should determine if the document is complete and must not notarize the signature if the document appears to be incomplete. The notarial certificate in a foreign language document or attached to a foreign language document, e.g., the acknowledgment or jurat, must be written in English. California law requires these forms to be followed exactly and they appear in California law in the English language. (California Civil Code sections 1188 and 1189; California Government Code section 8202.)
Does notarization mean that a document is “true” or “legal”?
No. Notaries are not responsible for the accuracy or legality of documents they notarize. Notaries certify the identity of signers. The signers are responsible for the content of the documents.
May a Notary give legal advice or draft legal documents?
A Notary is forbidden from preparing legal documents for others or acting as a legal advisor unless he or she is also an attorney. Violators can be fined or jailed for the unauthorized practice of law.
May a Notary prepare or offer advice on immigration forms?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations state that no one may help prepare or file another person’s immigration papers unless he or she is an attorney or a U.S. Justice Department-approved “accredited representative.” Non-attorneys may provide clerical, secretarial or translating assistance with USCIS forms, as long as no advice or interpretation is given. Courts have held that even a non-attorney’s selection of which legal forms to complete can constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
How does a U.S. Notary differ from a Notario Publico?
A U.S. Notary is not the same as a Latin Notario Publico. In Latin America, a Notario Publico is a high-ranking official like a judge, or an attorney. Unlike a Notario Publico, a U.S. Notary is forbidden from preparing legal documents or giving advice on immigration or other matters, unless he or she is also an attorney.
How much does a notarization cost?
According to California state law AB-2217, fee’s for Signatures cannot exceed $15 USD. There are some other fees pertaining to notarizations or copies from the log book that are regulated. Fees for other services such as travel are not regulated.
Where can I get a Jurat or Acknowledgment form to be notarized?
You can view and download the current forms from the California Secretary of State website. If you are unsure which to use, please consult the company that is requiring the document to be notarized as to which one they need, a notary cannot determine that for you.