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Notary Bulletin

Wisconsin Says No To Online Notarizations

Wisconsin has become the latest state to announce that online webcam notarizations are invalid and illegal, according to a formal statement by Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette.

“Wisconsin law requires a person to appear personally before a Notary Public to obtain notarial acts,” La Follette said in the message posted on his Web site. “This means the party must be physically present before the Notary Public.”

La Follette added 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.

In February, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen issued a similar alert declaring online notarizations to be illegal in the Golden State. Last Month, North Carolina Secretary of State published a newspaper article that described the importance of personal appearance in the notarial act.

The full text of Secretary La Follette’s statement follows:

CONSUMER ALERT: Online Notarization Services Are NOT legal in Wisconsin.

Online webcam notarization is invalid and illegal in the State of Wisconsin. A private company claims to have the first online notarization website and has sent misleading information and made false claims to Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin.

Please be aware that a Notary applicant does not need to "join" a notary association in order to become a Notary Public in Wisconsin. Additionally, a renewing Notary does not need to buy a new stamp every four years, unless the current seal or stamp is worn out. If a company offers a Notary stamp along with the bond, and the applicant doesn't need a new stamp, the applicant may wish to consider other insurance companies.

Wisconsin Notaries Public are authorized under current law to perform notarizations as long as all the requirements for the act are met, including the use of a seal. Wisconsin law requires a person to appear personally before a Notary Public to obtain notarial acts. 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 Wisconsin law.

If you have questions or would like additional information regarding this alert, please call the Office of the Secretary of State, Notary Section, at (608) 266-5594.

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