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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.


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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:


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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 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.

doug chanco

28 Jul 2015

can a notary certify the following documents: a birth certificate a divorce decree a marriage certificate thanks dougc

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello, thank you for your question. Because copy certification laws vary from state to state, we would need to know what state you are commissioned in to answer your question. You can also contact our Hotline at for assistance.


05 Aug 2015

We are in Iowa and some original real estate documents have been lost on the way to be recording. Can we certify a copy of a Warranty Deed and Easement to be recorded with the Recorder?

National Notary Association

07 Aug 2015

Hello. You would need to contact the recorder's office to find out what steps they wish you to take in this situation.


18 Aug 2015

I am a notary in California. Can I notarize a marriage certificate with a certification of document by custodian?

National Notary Association

20 Aug 2015

Hello Jimmy. Because a marriage certificate is a vital record, normally only the records office that holds the original marriage certificate may issue a copy certification. The signer should contact that office if he or she needs a certified copy.


30 Aug 2015

Im not sure if you've answered this question or not, but .... My husband and I were married in Mesa, AZ. He is in the military and we currently live in NC. I am from PA and the PA DMV needs a certified copy of our marriage certificate since I have to mail the document. If i have the original am I able to go to a notary to get a certified copy to send to the DMV?

National Notary Association

01 Sep 2015

Hello. Arizona Notaries cannot certify copies of public records such as marriage certificates. You would need to contact the recording office that issued the original certificate to request a certified copy.


03 Sep 2015

I have a certified copy of a Will and they want me to notarize it. Is that okay? I live in California

National Notary Association

09 Sep 2015

Hello. Notaries in California may only certify copies of powers of attorney (GC 8205[a][4]), or copies of entries in the Notary's journal if ordered by the Secretary of State or a court.(GC 8205[b][1] and GC 8206[e])


04 Sep 2015

Hi, I have an Indian customer who wants to have copy certificates for multiple documents such as DL, Passport, utility bill, etc for his Indian passport renewal. He wanted me to do one "copy certificate by document custodian" for all the documents. Is it possible to do so? Or I should advise him to do seperate form for each document. I'm a Californian notary. Thanks!

National Notary Assocation

10 Sep 2015

Hello. CA Notaries are only authorized to directly certify copies of their journal entries if requested by a court of law or the Secretary of State's office, or powers of attorney. Whether you can notarize the customer's statement that the copies are accurate or not may vary depending on the individual documents he needs--for example, in CA copy certification by document custodian is not permitted for vital records such as birth, death and marriage certificates because the originals are held by the recording agency. We suggest that you contact our Hotline team at or by phone at 888-876-0827 for additional assistance with this matter.

Kathy Eddy

15 Sep 2015

I live in Ohio and Iadopted my daughter from Russia. We only have one copy of her Birth certificate, can I take it to the court house and get a certified copy or have a notary certify a copy?

National Notary Association

15 Sep 2015

Hello. Ohio does not permit Notaries to certify copies of birth certificates. If the birth certificate was originally issued abroad, a consulate or embassy of the issuing country may be able to assist you in certifying or requesting a certified copy of the certificate.

D Noguerra

16 Sep 2015

I am in the State of California, am I able to notarize a Secretary of state authenticated birth certificate and an attached affidavit?

National Notary Association

18 Sep 2015

Hello. While you may be able to notarize a signature on the attached affidavit, CA Notaries may not certify copies of birth certificates or other vital records.


18 Sep 2015

I am a notary in MA and have been asked to certify a copy of a marriage license from Aruba can I do this?

National Notary Association

18 Sep 2015

Hello. No, the Governor's website recommends that the signer contact the consulate of the country of origin for assistance with vital records.


18 Sep 2015

Good Day, I have been asked to certify a true copy of a background check. The document was issued by the Dept. of Public Safety and Human Services in the state of MD (where I am located). This particular document does not include any notarial certificate and I'm unsure if I'm allowed to notarize this? This is for an international adoption.

National Notary Association

18 Sep 2015

Hello. Maryland Notaries may not certify copies of documents other than their own journal records. According to the Maryland Handbook for Notaries Public, page 17, "A notary public has no authority to certify a copy of a public record, a publicly recorded document, a school record or diploma, a professional license, or any other public or private document or record which does not pertain to the notary public’s official acts."

Sandy Ghitman

20 Sep 2015

I live in San Diego, CAlifornia, I must present a certified copy of my guatemalan passport and my US Residence Card as true to the original to an entity in Dublin, Ireland, who has not accepted “copy certification by document custodian". The agencies that issued the documents, such as USCIS or Guatemalan consulate will not do it. Please give me another leade.

National Notary Association

21 Sep 2015

Hello. If the Guatemalan consulate won't assist you, you may want to contact a local Irish consulate or embassy, explain the situation and ask them what alternatives they can accept.

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