Your Cookies are Disabled! sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

Understanding Notary technology: eSeals, eSignatures and digital certificates


(Originally published in the March 2020 issue of The National Notary magazine.)

Notarization used to be simple: the signer appears before the Notary with a signed paper document; the Notary identifies the signer; the Notary completes the notarization, signs with an ink pen and affixes a physical seal impression.

It’s not that simple anymore.

Today, Notaries in many states are authorized to notarize electronic documents, sign with a signature pad or by clicking a button on a computer screen. Notarizations can not only be done without paper (aka “In Person Electronic Notarizations” or “iPEN”), but states permitting remote online notarization (aka “RON”) even authorize the Notary and signer to interact remotely while hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.

As technology plays an increasingly important role in notarizations, many states are requiring Notaries to obtain and use electronic signatures, electronic seals and digital certificates in order to perform iPENs or RONs. But if you aren’t deeply versed in tech-speak, understanding what these different tools do, how to use them and how to make sure they comply with your state’s Notary laws can be extremely confusing. In this article, we’ll look at three tools used for paperless notarizations — electronic seals, electronic signatures, and digital certificates — explain what they do and answer some of the most confusing questions they raise for Notaries.

Electronic Notary seals

Of these three types of electronic tools, an electronic seal is perhaps the easiest to understand. Basically, an electronic seal serves the same purpose for electronic documents that an ink seal or embosser does for paper — it shows the document was notarized and provides information about the Notary who did it.

Depending on individual state laws, an electronic seal could take different forms. It might be an electronic image such as a JPEG, PDF or other file format. But in general, the seal must include similar information to a physical seal. When a notarized electronic document is opened, information about the Notary contained in the electronic seal should be readily visible to the person viewing the document.

“What we specify is that the electronic seal must look virtually the same as a tangible, physical seal when viewing an electronic document,” said Lori Hamm, Notary Program Specialist with the Montana Secretary of State’s office. Hamm added that Montana lawmakers wanted to make sure that anyone viewing a notarized electronic document could easily see that the document has been notarized.

Just as with traditional seals, a Notary must take steps to secure the seal and make sure no one else can access and use the seal without the Notary’s knowledge. Some Notaries keep their eSeal stored on an approved technology platform’s server accessible only with the correct password. Others might choose to store the seal on their personal computer’s hard drive. However the eSeal is stored, it needs to be protected. “Electronic seals follow the same rules and guidelines as physical seals in terms of issuing and securing them,” Hamm said.

Notaries and electronic signatures

Just as an electronic seal is the equivalent of a physical ink stamp or embosser, an electronic signature serves the same function as the Notary’s handwritten signature. An electronic signature can take many forms — an image of a handwritten signature affixed to the document, a signature created by writing on an electronic signing pad or even just clicking an “Accept” button on a computer screen.

“It’s easiest if you think about what Notaries do in the paper world first. The same logic applies to the electronic means for performing a notarization,” said Tim Reiniger, an expert on information governance law and policy and the director of Timothy Reiniger LLC in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Just as a handwritten signature and physical seal indicate that a traditional pen and paper notarization was completed and legally establish the genuineness of the underlying document, when an electronic document is opened, the recipient sees the Notary’s electronic signature and seal information attached to the document and knows it can be legally relied upon in court or for government filing purposes.

However, a significant difference between paper documents and electronic documents is that it is much easier for someone to alter an electronic document undetected. An eDocument’s text can be changed in seconds, and many people even have the capability to alter, add or remove images from an eDocument easily using software widely available to the public. So how can someone know if a notarized electronic document has been tampered with? That’s where digital certificates come in.

Notaries and digital certificates

Digital certificates are perhaps the most important — and most confusing — tool used for electronic notarizations. A digital certificate doesn’t have a true equivalent in the traditional world of paper notarizations.

Despite the name, a digital certificate has nothing to do with Notary certificate wording. Though digital certificates are sometimes called “digital signatures” they are different from the electronic signatures described above.

A digital certificate performs two key functions — it verifies the identity of the Notary who affixed the electronic signature and seal on the notarized document, and it makes the document “tamper-evident.” Once a digital certificate is applied, if anyone attempts to alter the document’s contents, the Notary’s electronic signature, or the Notary’s electronic seal, the document will clearly indicate to anyone that opens it that changes have been made since the notarization was completed. A digital certificate is normally the last tool used when notarizing an electronic document, after the Notary’s electronic seal and signature are applied.

“People often think everything related to a document is visual, but a digital certificate is not,” said Darcy Mayer, chief technology officer for DocVerify, a remote online notarization technology provider. “It’s the cryptographic portion of a document that’s there, but not visible.”

Digital certificates are normally issued by a trusted issuing authority for a limited period of time and must be periodically renewed over a period ranging from 1 to 5 years. For example, digital certificates sold by the NNA are renewed either after 1 year or 3 years, which is standard for the ID technology industry, and meets the requirements for all states that authorize RON.

If a Notary needs a digital certificate to perform iPEN or RON notarizations, the Notary can obtain a digital certificate directly from the trusted issuing authority. Notaries can also obtain digital certificates through authorized vendors such as the NNA or through remote notarization technology providers such as DocVerify, which provides and maintains digital certificates for Notaries who use their platform to perform remote online notarizations.

“In our case, we (DocVerify) take on the onus and maintain the digital certificate securely with password protected access for the Notary,” Mayer said. “Our employees can’t access or decrypt the files. We take on the responsibility to secure it for the Notary.”

While it’s possible for a Notary to obtain more than one digital certificate, Mayer said a single digital certificate can be used across multiple notarization technology platforms, so it’s simpler and more secure for a Notary to use only one. Also, some states, such as Texas, require Notaries to upload their digital certificate to a state web portal so officials can verify it, and only one digital certificate can be associated with each remote Notary commission application, said Robert Sumners, director of Government Filings with the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Remote online notarization is still evolving in many states, and therefore the requirements for using digital certificates and other technology for iPEN or RON may change in the future. But for now, if Notaries have questions they can contact the NNA, their state Notary agency or a technology provider they are signed up with for assistance.

David Thun is an Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

Learn everything you need to know about performing remote online notarizations in our 2-hour online course.

Additional Resources:

How to become a remote online Notary


Add your comment

Caroll Ramirez

20 Mar 2020

interested in learning about e-signatures

Luz Maria AguilaR

27 Mar 2020

Intrested I need more infirmation ..

Julie Brewster

30 Mar 2020

Am interested.


01 Apr 2020

Assuming that the KBA, credential Analysis and remote Presentation of Viewing ID's etc takes the place of the fingerprint?

National Notary Association

01 Apr 2020

Hello Kim. The processes you describe are commonly used as a method of identifying the signer during a remote online notarization. Can you clarify what you mean by "replacing a fingerprint"?

Brian Darden

04 Apr 2020

Hi, I am a Texas notary public but I want to be an online Notary. I have received a digital certificate and signatures, and electronic signature from idenTrust. What is the next step in establishing a platform to perform online notaries? Regards, Brian Darden

National Notary Association

06 Apr 2020

Hi Brian. Information on becoming a Texas RON is available here:


18 Apr 2020

I ordered an e-notary seal from NNA. I don't have any idea how to save it so that I can put it on a document. I tried pasting it to the Texas application for a RON certification, but it won't work. What am I doing wrong???

National Notary Association

20 Apr 2020

Please call our Customer Care team at 1-800-876-6827 for assistance.

Barbara Hoffman

14 May 2020

This article helped a lot explain the role of the digital certificate. I have a registered account with docverify, but I am not sure about buying credits or which package to choose. Is it always Enterprise edition, and do the credits last one year? And how many credits are used for one signing? Any help would be great to begin doing RON

National Notary Association

14 May 2020

Hello. You would need to contact DocVerify directly to ask them to provide this information.

Yadusha Williams

14 May 2020

Nevada- Do I need a digital certificate as a E-Notary?

National Notary Association

18 May 2020

Hello. Yes, Nevada requires a digital certificate for electronic notarizations. Please see here for information:

Beth Dario

07 Jul 2020

What do I need to notarize for our company in State of California, County of Los Angeles since we are all working from home.

National Notary Association

08 Jul 2020

Hello. California has not authorized its Notaries to perform remote notarizations. Please see this article for sample safety tips and precautions when performing in-person notarizations:

19 Jul 2020

I'm in Texas & I received my eNotary Seal, but I have never received my Notary DigitalCert Voucher from Identrust, as you stated on your website, both were purchased on the same day & its been 2 months, can someone follow up with me.

National Notary Association

20 Jul 2020

Hello. Thank you for reaching out. We've forwarded your message to our Customer Care team. They are checking your order and someone should be in touch with you soon.


20 Aug 2020

I know you can not promote one RON tech provider but do you know the three most common ones seen used in the state of Florida?

National Notary Association

20 Aug 2020

Hello. While this list does not indicate an endorsement by the NNA or the state of Florida, a partial list of RON vendors available to Florida Notaries can be found here:

18 Sep 2020

Greetings Fellow Notaries, I am in Fort Myers area, I am seeking a mentor to help me build my knowledge as a Notary, a NSA, a RON. I would very much welcome the expertise of a seasoned person in one or all of these areas. There's always something new to be learned and there's always opportunities for forming great working relationships. If you would be the kind of person to share your knowledge please contact me (239) 888-1160. Thank you and have a great day !


16 Oct 2020

Hello, my question is will my age be a set back. I'm 61 this year, and I'm retired on SSDI. Should I proceed to become a Notary.

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2020

Hello! Many people apply for Notary commissions at different ages. Some older Notaries apply for a commission as a way to earn side income. If you are interested in becoming a Notary, it depends what you would like to do with your Notary commission. Do you want to offer Notary services as a convenience for friends and family? Or do you plan to start your own business? Do you want to perform Remote Online Notarizations? If you would like to read more information about becoming a Notary before you decide, our NNA Knowledge Center is a good place to start:


03 Dec 2020

I am located in TX and had purchased and downloaded my Digital certificate from IdenTrust, I had tried using it to sign the statement of officer document in order to complete my application for Remote Notary and it states that it is unable to use it, it specifies information that is needed in it that my digital certificate does not have such as my Notary ID as well as my Commission expiration date?

National Notary Association

04 Dec 2020

Hello Kristen. Just to confirm, do you also have an existing Texas commission to perform traditional pen-and-paper notarizations? An existing standard TX Notary commission is also required to perform remote online notarizations in Texas.

Kristen Padilla

21 Dec 2020

Yes, I currently have my Commission for Texas and am trying to get my remote notary in order to do online notary, so I had purchased my digital certificate already and have completed a electronic seal and signature. I am just having trouble completing the application for the state.

National Notary Association

22 Dec 2020

Hello Kristen. Your Notary commission expiration date is the same date as for your traditional Notary commission. If you do not know your Notary ID number issued by the state, you will need to contact the TX SOS office to request assistance: (512) 463-5705 or

Joan R Craigg

30 Dec 2020

My husband and I are both Notaries/NSA. We would like to work as a team, is it ok for both of us to be at a signing together?

National Notary Association

05 Jan 2021

Hello. Only the NSA assigned by the signing company or lender should be present at a signing.

Jacqueline Hudson

04 Feb 2021

I'm trying to pick a third party company so that I can apply for my notary online in Oklahoma ask you to pick a third party do you have any suggestions here are some of the companies they offer me DocVerify, Pavas, Inc SINGNix, Nexsys Clear Sign, Digital Delivery, INC, eNotaryLog, Secured Signing and E-Notary LLC I've read up on some but not for sure. Thank you for any help.

National Notary Association

05 Feb 2021

Hello. The NNA does not endorse any specific RON technology vendor. As an Oklahoma Notary, if you are unhappy with your initial RON provider and wish to switch to a different company, Oklahoma remote Notaries must inform the Secretary of State if they decide to use a RON provider that was not listed on their initial application. You will need to fill out a Notary Information Update on the SOS website and provide the name, address and website of the new platform.


11 Apr 2021

i am interested in the RON. Also, does this work with IMAC? or just windows? how do i learn more about this?

National Notary Association

12 Apr 2021

Hello. You can find more information here:

13 May 2021

Just received a rejection from my state. I filled out something wrong on my application. When asked about the platforms I will use, I’m not sure what to put here. Anyone here that can help?

National Notary Association

19 May 2021

Hello. If you are applying for authorization to perform remote online notarizations (RON), some states require that you sign up with a RON technology platform that will provide you with the means to perform RONs online and meets state requirements. You can find more information about your state's RON requirements here:

18 May 2021

I am interested in information about digital notary.

National Notary Association

19 May 2021

Hello. You can find more information about remote online notarization (RON) here:


14 Jul 2021

With the influx of hackers into our Online world, can you support the idea, that we store our digital certificate, on an EXTERNAL DRIVE, rather than our computer and only download it when needed?

Janelle Dash

15 Jan 2022

NY Notary, I sometimes notarize documents for my job, can I electronically notarize my jobs documents once I’ve purchased the e certificate ??

National Notary Association

28 Jan 2022

Hello. Can you please clarify if you are referring to remote notarization or notarizing in person using electronic documents and Notary tools?

24 Mar 2022

just can not understand this went got the E stamp and the certificate got on with nexsys have snapdocs and the only ones I get is to travel? now with the price of gas, I was hoping to do the e notary so not sure what I'm doing wrong?

Gia Medina

23 Apr 2022

I'm in Florida and am confused about the electronic seal. Between the two companies I'm considering one takes the NNA electronic seal and another does not. Does this mean that the second company provides its own version? Am I allowed to possess more than one electronic seal in my state?

National Notary Association

02 Jun 2022

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

24 May 2022

I am RON certified but I am confused about a platform to work from. Is this like signing up with signing agencies or do I have to purchase a platform somehow?

National Notary Association

26 May 2022

Hello. RON technology platforms provide online tools Notaries use to perform remote online notarizations. Depending on state laws, a RON platform may need to comply with certain state rules in order to be used by Notaries in a particular state. For more information, please see this article:

Sheree White

21 Nov 2022

I've looked at the on line virtual webinar, but how can I learn how to actually perform the functions, how to share the screen, and how everything work from my end as a notary?


21 Nov 2022

Where do you get the IPEN's? Are they only used with iPads?

National Notary association

28 Nov 2022

Hello. No, the type of devices you can use to perform an IPEN would depend on state law requirements.

Andy Villatoro

01 Dec 2022

How do I renew my Digital Certificate as an online notary?

National Notary Association

12 Jan 2023

Hi Andy, thank you for reaching out. This can be renewed over the phone with our Customer Care team at 1-800-876-6827 or on our website

Diana Martinez

14 Apr 2023

How do I find out if Bluebeam Revu is compatible/will work for the digital certificate and e-seal?

National Notary Association

22 May 2023

To determine if Bluebeam Revu is compatible with IdenTrust digital certificates and NNA e-seals, you can follow these steps: 1. Check Bluebeam's documentation: Visit their website and look for information about digital certificates and e-seals in their product documentation or user guides. They may provide instructions or compatibility requirements. 2. The digital certificates are provided by IdenTrust. They have a tech support line and this may be the best way to confirm compatibility. Their toll-free number would be 888-339-8904 3. NNA e-seals are sent as a PNG file. PNG files are widely supported by different software applications, web browsers, and operating systems. They are often used for web design, digital art, and sharing images online. Additionally, PNG files can be easily edited and manipulated using various image editing software. 4. Contact Bluebeam support: Reach out to their support team and ask if your version of Bluebeam Revu supports IdenTrust digital certificates and PNG e-seals. They will have the most accurate and up-to-date information. 5. Use Bluebeam's community forums: Join their user community and ask about compatibility with digital certificates and e-seals. Users with experience can share insights and experiences. By following these steps, you can gather the necessary information to determine if Bluebeam Revu supports digital certificates and e-seals for your specific needs.

G. K. Mullins

31 Oct 2023

I currently use Bluebeam Revu and can confirm that they do accept and use RON and support e-seals and digital certificates. Thanks

11 Dec 2023

I obtained my digital certificate from IdenTrust to become an RON. I need to upload the digital certificate I received from IdenTrust to the Tennessee Secretary of State website RON application, which needs to be in PDF format. The digital certificate is in .p12 format. I have not found a website that converts my .p12 digital certificate from IdenTrust to PDF. Does the DocVerify digital certificate come in PDF form?

National Notary Association

11 Dec 2023

Hello. We've forwarded your message to our Customer Care team to request assistance with your digital certificate issue and question.

22 Jan 2024

Do the state of Tennessee support the using the iPen and the esignature

National Notary Association

29 Jan 2024

Hello. Tennessee has not enacted specific legislation to regulate IPENs


14 Mar 2024

Hello, I just renewed my traditional notary the other day even tho it didn't expire until Jan 2025. I did read your RON expires when your traditional notary expires so that's why I renewed it. I'm currently waiting on my certificate to get it notarized. I will be applying to be a RON once my commission is updated with the new date. I also applied for a digital certificate that I did receive and I did receive it but it's pretty much a file with codes etc. I applied for my eseal at the same time but have not received it? Is that bc I need to submit over my new notarized certificate once I receive it and get that done for them to release my eseal? I also passed my NSA:) Please let me know if I'm doing this correctly

National Notary Association

18 Mar 2024

Hello. If you renewed your commission and/or purchased a seal through the NNA and have not received it yet, please contact our Customer Care team at and one of our representatives can assist you.

31 Mar 2024

I have watched what a digital signature and seal is. I have also viewed how to perform a RON. However, what do we do to setup to perform enotarizations and RON. Do we have to have a platform for both or just have the digital certificate and signature on our laptops. I am a little confused.

National Notary Association

01 Apr 2024

Hello. The technology requirements for performing remote notarizations and electronic notarizations varies depending on the commissioning state. You can find information on each state's specific requirements for remote notarization here: and state guidelines for in-person electronic notarization here:

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.