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How To Certify A Copy Of A Document

Certified CopyNotaries are often asked by signers to verify that a reproduction or photocopy of an original document is a true, complete and correct copy of the original. This is called "certifying a copy" or "copy certification." Whether you can do so isn’t always clear-cut. Here are some important facts about copy certification all Notaries should know.​

Can Notaries certify copies?

Not in every state. Some states (such as Michigan and New York), do not allow Notaries to certify copies of documents as an official notarial act, and three states (California, Hawaii, Maryland) limit the types of documents or records that Notaries may certify.

If I can’t certify a copy of a document, is there an alternative?

An alternative procedure called “copy certification by document custodian” may be permissible. With this procedure, the document’s custodian or holder signs a statement attesting to the accuracy of the copy, and the Notary notarizes the custodian’s signature on the statement. The difference is that rather than directly certifying the copy, the Notary is notarizing the custodian’s signature on a statement vouching for the copy’s accuracy.

How can I advise a signer?

You have to be careful not to provide unauthorized legal advice to the signer. You can mention that you may perform a copy certification by document custodian, but should not suggest or recommend that to the signer. For example, if asked to certify a copy, you may say “State law does not authorize me to certify a copy of your document. However, in this circumstance I may be able to notarize your signature on a written statement in which you certify the copy.” You should not say something like, “I can’t do this and must perform a copy certification by document custodian instead.” The important difference here is that you may mention you can perform the procedure, and let the signer choose that option if he or she wishes, but you should not tell the signer what to do — that could constitute legal advice Notaries aren’t allowed to give.

What if a signer asks me to certify a copy of a vital record, like a birth or marriage certificate?

In some jurisdictions, such as Delaware, Notaries are not permitted to certify copies of vital records. However, it’s the signer’s responsibility — not the Notary’s — to check if copying a document violates a law or will be accepted by a receiving agency.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

25 Comments

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verna kuykendall

15 Jul 2014

This is an excellent explanation - clear and concise! Thank you.

lisa marie mason

07 Mar 2015

ok i habe my sons birth certifacate. i been to get him a state id i only have a copy of id ss card i never reseved the origanal i sent away fro it they say his birth certifacate is not enough documents to do so he needs a photo id n with out a ss card i cant get a is or the ss card im stuck and dont know how else to go about doin this please hepl any info will be greatly apprecated .

National Notary Association

10 Mar 2015

Hello Lisa. I'm sorry, but we don't handle matters related to replacing social security cards. Your best resource would probably be to contact your local Social Security office and ask for assistance in obtaining a replacement card for your son. More information regarding replacing a lost card is also available from the Social Security Administration here: http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/

Debbie

24 Apr 2015

I have a unique question involving a request to notarize a document printed from a computer. I personally know the parties involved with this request. We are located in the State of Georgia. I have been asked to notarize a copy of a Birth Certificate, along with the Social Security Card of an individual. The BC was printed from a document located on the computer of the mother of the requesting individual. The mother passed away within this past year and they are unable to find the original document, but have requested a copy of the BC from Kansas. I don't thing I can legally do this, but just wanted to confirm my instinct. Thank you for your help!

National Notary Association

24 Apr 2015

Hello Debbie. State law does not permit you certifying a copy of a birth certificate. Georgia Notaries may not certify copies of public records or a publicly recorded document when certified copies are available from a source other than a Notary. (OCGA 45-17-8[a][6]). However you may certify a copy of a Social Security card provided the photocopy is made under your supervision.

Drina Marino

06 May 2015

I have an original and 2 carbons of a cemetery interment document I've been asked to notarize. Can I notarize these 2 carbons. Am in the state of new jersey

National Notary Association

07 May 2015

Hello Drina. What kind of notarial act is being requested for the carbons? For example, are you being asked to notarize original signatures on the carbon copies, or certify them as accurate copies?

Lidia

11 May 2015

Can an copy of a power of attorney be certified as an original.

National Notary Association

12 May 2015

Hello. By definition, a copy is not an original document.

Ananga

20 May 2015

I am in the state of Delaware and I have been asked to certify a copy of a marriage certificate, but I do not know where and how to go about getting the document certified. The certification is for divorce purposes.

National Notary Association

20 May 2015

Hello Ananga. Notaries in Delaware are not authorized to certify copies of official or public records such as marriage certificates (29 DC 4322[d]). The person making the request would need to contact the office that holds the original marriage certificate to request a certified copy.

UDAYA KUMAR NAPA

02 Jun 2015

hi, I need to certify my educational documents which i got it from Universities in India. I need to have the signature, seal and stating "This is a true and accurate copy of the original". I live in NewJersey where can I get this done. please suggest. thanks

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2015

Hello. Unfortunately, Notaries in New Jersey are not authorized to certify copies of academic documents. For assistance in authenticating your documents, you may need to contact a local Indian consulate or embassy (embassy and consular officials are usually authorized to notarize documents relating to their home nation) or contact the university directly to request help.

Karen

10 Jun 2015

I recently notarized several power of attorney forms at a hospital in New Jersey. The family feels they may need more copies of this document with a raised notary seal. Am I able to certify copies of this document with a raised seal being that I was present when they were originally signed?

National Notary Association

11 Jun 2015

Hello. No, New Jersey does not authorize its Notaries to certify copies of documents.

felisasjones@gmail.com

22 Jun 2015

I live in the state of Georgia and I have been ask to notarized that the copy of a birth certificate was made from the original in my presence. Can I legally perform the service with a certification by document custodian?

National Notary Association

07 Jul 2015

Hello. Normally only the records office that holds the original birth certificate may issue certified copies. The signer should contact that office if he or she needs a certified copy.

lukman

29 Jun 2015

Hello, I need to provide certified copies of my Nigerian Internal passport and my utility bill here in New Jersey. How do I go about this? THANK YOU

National Notary Association

07 Jul 2015

Hello. I'm sorry, but New Jersey Notaries are not authorized to certify copies of documents. You may want to contact the agencies that issued the documents in question for assistance.

Geoff

01 Jul 2015

I am told that notaries in Oklahoma cannot certify copies as "true to the original". Not only will they not write it on the copy, but they refuse to notarize a statement on an attached piece of paper, with their stamp going through to the copy below. The OK Secretary of State's notary office told me to obtain an Apostille. They do not understand that it is the "true to original" that I need, not verification of the notary's legitimacy. Please tell me whether I am being misinformed. Thanks.

National Notary Association

07 Jul 2015

Hello. Oklahoma Notaries are permitted to certify copies of documents. 49 OS 113[D] states, "“(T)he notarial officer must determine that the proffered copy is a full,true, and accurate transcription or reproduction of that which was copied. In the case of official records, only the custodian of the official records may issue an official certified copy”

M Frost

08 Jul 2015

I have been asked to notarize a copy of a social security card. The SS number was submitted on college paperwork incorrectly. In ready your information I would assume I need to complete a "copy certification by document custodian". Is this correct or am I unable to do even that because I am in New York State. Please advise. Thank you.

National Notary Association

15 Jul 2015

Hello. For assistance with this question, please contact our Hotline counselors at hotline@nationalnotary.org or 1-888-876-6827.

j barham

21 Jul 2015

can a PA Notary certify a copy of a birth certificate?

National Notary Association

28 Jul 2015

Hello. No, PA Notaries are not permitted to certify copies of birth records.

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