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Guest Notary Column: Dealing With A Problem Signing


“Why won’t you just notarize it for us?” This is never an easy question. This time it was asked by a woman who was anxious to finalize the purchase of a home. And she was becoming increasingly frustrated because of the obstacle in her way.

The closing appointment had not gotten off to a good start. It was a rainy day, and the couple had arrived late. So I got right down to it. “Can I see your ID?” I asked as we sat around the table in the Realtor’s office. The wife handed me her valid Florida Drivers License then her husband handed me his passport.

“This is a foreign passport,” I stated. “Was it stamped by U.S. Immigration when you entered the U.S.A.?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied.

I looked through his passport to confirm that it indeed was not stamped by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In the State of Florida, a Notary may identify a signer through a foreign passport only if it has been stamped by USCIS.

I asked him if he had any other forms of identification. He did not.

Before going any further, I stepped out of the room to call the title company. They were frustrated by the news but agreed that we could not proceed with the closing.

I knew that this news wasn’t going to go over well.

I calmly explained to the Realtors and the buyers that I was not able to accept his passport and would be unable to notarize the documents for their closing.

They all got angry and argumentative about what is a valid ID. So I called the NNA Hotline on speakerphone and asked the representative to list all acceptable forms of ID that a Florida Notary Public is allowed to accept.

After the phone call, one of the Realtors asked me, “What if they are not really married?”

Surprised by this question, I told her that if they were not married then he didn’t have to sign. But since they are legally married, and the title company and lender have them listed on the documents as husband and wife, he’ll need to sign. She then suggested we, “just cross off his name from the documents.”

I explained to them that Florida requires the spouse to sign the spousal documents of a loan on a property that is, or is going to be, the couple’s primary residence. One of the required Florida spousal documents is the mortgage which needs to be notarized. Therefore we could not just cross his name off the documents.

Then the situation really got tense. The wife asked, “What if I file for a divorce?”

Shocked by the question, I told her even by doing that this would still not close today.

“Why won’t you just notarize it for us?” she snapped.

With that question, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to be pressured or tricked into notarizing their documents, so I left the closing.

I called the title company, and they agreed that this was not okay. The closing couldn’t happen without the husband presenting a valid ID.

I still don’t know the truth about their marriage, how or why he got into the U.S., or what happened with their closing. But, I do know that I didn't want to be pushed into breaking the law or doing an illegal transaction.

How would you handle this situation? Share your thoughts below or on our social media pages.

Amanda Doumanian Reeves has worked as a mobile Notary in Tallahassee, Florida, for five years and helps run a thriving business, A Notary on the Go, with her family.

Related Articles:

Is An Expired ID Acceptable For A Notarization?

Is A Social Security Card Considered A Valid ID For Notarization?

Types Of ID That Notaries May Accept Under New State Laws

What If The Name On An ID Doesn’t Match The Name On The Document?

Notary Challenge: How Do I Handle A Credible Identifying Witness?

Additional Resources:

Notary Law Primers

ID Checking Guide: US & Canada

Notary Essentials


Add your comment


26 Oct 2015

For the question of having a foreign passport without a USCIS stamp - this is actually a common occurrence, although the person will have an alternative credential - for example their USCIS issued green card. If your passport expires whilst you are legally in the US, foreign embassies will issue a new passport, and retain the original one to avoid multiple passports. Naturally since it is a new passport it won't contain the USCIS stamp. There are also other possibilities - although all would mean that the person would have alternative USCIS credentials - for example if you have a LPR or conditional LPR card and you have a new passport issued after the LPR was issued, your passport is often not stamped on entry since the LPR card allows you to enter the country without hinderance - LPRs are considered equivalent to citizens for many events.

National Notary Association

27 Oct 2015

Hello. Since this signing took place in Florida, aside from personal knowledge of the signer or credible witnesses, Florida law permits Notaries to accept the following forms of ID as proof of a signer's identity, provided the ID is current or issued in the past 5 years and bears a serial or identifying number: a. A Florida identification card or driver’s license issued by the public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses; b. A passport issued by the Department of State of the United States; c. A passport issued by a foreign government if the document is stamped by USCIS; d. A driver’s license or an identification card issued by a public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses in a state other than Florida, a territory of the United States, or Canada or Mexico; e. An identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States; f. An inmate identification card issued on or after January 1, 1991, by the Florida Department of Corrections for an inmate who is in the custody of the department; g. An inmate identification card issued by the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Federal Prisons, for an inmate who is in the custody of the department; h. A sworn, written statement from a sworn law enforcement officer that the forms of identification for an inmate in an institution of confinement were confiscated upon confinement; and that the person named in the document is the person whose signature is to be notarized; or i. An identification card issued by USCIS. (FS 117.05)

John Axt

26 Oct 2015

I had a situation in which I felt the husband was not competent to sign the documents and told the title company. The next day the same title company tried to hire me to go get them notarized! I politely declined and explained that if I did not think he was competent yesterday, that my opinion would not change today.

Tim Gatewood

27 Apr 2016

I would handle this the same way as the author did. Good job! I just wish TN allowed as many different forms of ID as FL does. TN doesn't accept jail IDs, which has been an issue for some of us here.

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