During the past decade, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, have caused dramatic, cascading effects across America in government, business, and daily life. The effects on Notaries — and their duty to authenticate transactions through positively identifying document signers — were profound, as the nation transformed its approach to identity and document security processes. The following is a glimpse of some of the significant changes affecting our world today:
National Identification Standards Emerge
Once it was revealed that the 9/11 hijackers entered the United States using fake or fraudulently acquired identification documents, a new federal standard emerged, the REAL ID Act of 2005, that required strict issuance and security standards for driver’s licenses and other identification documents. Under the Act, all state-issued licenses and IDs must be machine-readable and include a digital photo of the bearer, a unique numeric identifier, and the bearer’s legal name, date of birth, address and signature. The deadline for states to meet this requirement is currently set at January 15, 2013. Notaries benefit from this requirement, as they will thereby be able to rely upon uniform identification documents in every state that meet satisfactory evidence requirements and are much more difficult to forge.
New Forms Of Signer ID Implemented
The terrorist attacks also taught us that passports needed to be more reliable and secure as a form of national identification. The federal government both strengthened the security of traditional passports and began issuing new “Passport Cards” — wallet-sized identification cards issued for land and sea travel in north America and the Caribbean that contain a photograph and limited information about the bearer. Traditional passports are now more reliable and can still be accepted as satisfactory evidence of identity for notarizations. The Passport Card lacks a physical description and signature of the bearer, but some states such as California and Oregon now permit Notaries to accept these based on their security features and strict issuance procedures.
Improvements In Employment Verification
Once it was learned that the 9/11 hijackers lived, worked, and trained in the U.S. under fraudulent identities and pretenses, pressure was placed on employers nationwide to verify the citizenship of their employees and their legal eligibility to work. That resulted in the federal E-Verify program. Developed by the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify compares information from I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms to several federal databases to confirm a worker’s status. While the E-Verify submission process does not require notarization, many businesses have hired Notaries to serve as third party agents helping submit data to the system because of Notaries’ reputation for professionalism, experience in verifying identities, and their role as impartial, third party witnesses.