Notary Bulletin

California Secretary Of State: Webcam Notarizations Are Illegal

Debra Bowen

Online webcam notarization is invalid and illegal in the State of California, according to a formal statement by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

“California law requires a person to appear personally before a Notary Public to obtain notarial acts like acknowledgments or jurats,” Bowen said in the message posted on her Web site February 24. “This means the party must be physically present before the Notary Public.”

Bowen went on to say that video images or other forms of non-physical representation do not meet personal appearance requirements before a Notary under current state or federal laws.

The full text of Secretary Bowen’s statement follows:

Customer Alert - Online Notarization Services Are Not Legal In California

Online webcam notarization is invalid and illegal in the State of California.

A private company claims to have the first online notarization website and has sent misleading information and made false claims to California Notaries Public concerning a new online notarization service. The web-based platform purports to allow a person to submit copies of identification over the Internet and to use a webcam in lieu of a personal appearance in front of a Notary Public. Appearance via webcam does not meet the requirements for notarization in California.

California Notaries Public are authorized under current law to perform electronic notarizations as long as all the requirements for a traditional paper-based notarial act are met, including the use of a seal for all but two specific documents used in real estate transactions. California law requires a person to appear personally before a Notary Public to obtain notarial acts like acknowledgments or jurats. This means the party must be physically present before the Notary Public. 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. The technology solution offered by this private company does not comply with California law.

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