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To Accept, Or Not To Accept Foreign Identification Documents

Most Notaries know and adhere to their state’s identification requirements. But the lines can get blurred when you are presented an identification document from a foreign national. You might not be able to read it, determine if it is fraudulent, or know whether or not the ID meets state requirements.

Compounding the issue is that foreign ID requirements differ from state to state. In California, for example, foreign passports bearing a stamp by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services are acceptable as satisfactory evidence for notarizations. However, Colorado statute specifically requires all IDs to be issued by a U.S. federal or state agency, eliminating the use of a foreign passport for notarizations.

Because situations like these vary from state to state, you should always check state statute or call the Notary Hotline if presented with a foreign identification. If statute does not address foreign IDs you should make sure the ID meets minimum state requirements: Is the ID current? Does it contain the signer’s photograph, signature and physical description?

Another handy tool is an identification reference manual, such as the I.D. Checking Guide International Edition. However, even this reference might not answer all of a Notary’s questions. Many foreign IDs are written in other languages and characters which you might not be able to read. If you cannot verify the identity of the signer, you should refuse to perform the notarization and refer the signer to a Notary who speaks their language, or to the signer’s consulate.

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