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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.

11 Comments

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verna kuykendall

15 Jul 2014

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

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/

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 .

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?

National Notary Association

12 May 2015

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

Lidia

11 May 2015

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

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.

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.

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