The growing prevalence of smartphones, tablet devices and webcams has apparently prompted an increase in inquiries from Notaries about the legality of remote notarizations performed online via webcam. In fact, just this month the NNA’s Notary Hotline received a spike in calls from members asking how to handle these requests.
The short answer is, despite advances in technology, remote or “webcam” notarizations to date are not legal in the U.S. or any of its jurisdictions. In all cases, the document signer or affiant must physically appear before the Notary Public to be screened for identity, willingness and awareness and, in the case of jurats, to sign the document with the Notary as witness.
In 2011, there was a lot of chatter about remote notarizations among the nation’s Notaries and legislators following Virginia’s introduction of legislation allowing for the technology. Virginia’s law did pass authorizing a signer to use “video and audio conference technology” to virtually appear before a Notary, but this law does not take effect until July 1.
In contrast to Virginia’s legislation, several states and territories — including California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Ohio, the Northern Marianas, Rhode Island and Wisconsin — issued public alerts that notarizations using online communication are prohibited and signers are still required to physically appear before the Notary. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen stated on her website, “A video image or other form of non-physical representation is not a personal appearance in front of a Notary Public under current state or federal laws.”