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What Notaries Need To Know About Copy Certification

copy-certification-resized.jpgUpdated 9-11-18. If you are asked to certify a copy of a document — that is, to vouch for the fact that the copy is true and accurate — you need to know a few important facts about state Notary laws before doing so.

Not All States Allow Notaries To Certify Copies
 

Whether you are authorized to certify copies of documents depends on where you are commissioned. Most states permit it, but others, including Alabama, Alaska, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee, do not.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with your state Notary laws, so you know whether you may certify a document copy or need to turn down the request.

Certain Types Of Documents Are Off Limits
 

Florida and Pennsylvania authorize Notaries to certify copies of most documents, yet both states prohibit certifying copies of birth, death and marriage certificates. Texas only allows Notaries to certify copies of documents that cannot be recorded with any type of government entity.

It’s illegal to make unauthorized copies of certain immigration forms — such as a Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship or Declaration of Intention to Become a Citizen — and doing so may carry criminal penalties regardless of whether they are or are not certified as copies by a Notary. California limits Notaries to certifying copies of powers of attorney or, if requested by the Secretary of State or a court, entries in the Notary’s journal. Hawaii and Maryland limit Notaries to certifying copies of their Notary journal entries only. Rhode Island prohibits Notaries from certifying copies of any document that can be recorded publicly, while Maine allows only private documents to be copy certified by a Notary. Virginia prohibits certifying a copy of court-issued documents.

Additional Requirements
 

While prohibiting Notaries from performing copy certifications on documents such as vital records and publicly recorded documents is common, two states don’t stop there. Colorado and West Virginia uniquely require a Notary to obtain a written and signed request for the copy certification from the requestor prior to performing the notarial act and specify the contents of this written request.

The request must state that a certified copy cannot be obtained from a recorder or custodian of public documents and that production of the copy doesn’t violate state or federal law. In these states, you must retain a copy of the document presented for copy certification in your records. Colorado additionally requires a Notary to retain the signed, written request as well.

There Are Sometimes Alternatives
 

If state law does not authorize a Notary to certify a document copy, in some situations you may be able to notarize the signature of a person who has written a statement attesting to the accuracy of the copy.

The signer should present you with the written attestation statement, a proper notarial certificate and the photocopy of the document in question. If the signer’s statement doesn’t contain a notarial certificate, then the signer must instruct you on which notarial act to perform.

If you are asked to execute a jurat, remember to have the signer swear or affirm to the truth of their written statement.

Remember, you cannot recommend this alternative to signers; the signer has to request it.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

NNA Hotline

21 Comments

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Sandra Guerrero

05 Oct 2015

Awesome very informative. Thank you

Jonathan

06 Oct 2015

Thank you for the information! I deeply appreciate your sharing this with notaries!

Jerry Lucas

05 Jan 2016

Colorado only allows a notary to make a certified copy of an original document. A notary cannot make a certified copy of a copy because of the risk of document alteration and fraud. Some states prohibit making a copy of a driver's license. The law is silent on whether a black and white certified copy of a color document is acceptable. To reduce risk of identity theft, a black and white copy of a driver's license is less risky than a color copy.

Christina Agans

03 Oct 2016

Perfect, i have come across this several times. I know i can't being in NY but it is always had to find in regulation to explain it. I printed this for reference.

Alden Martin

03 Oct 2016

It's like a photograph, I can't notarize a photograph, But can notarize what your description of the photo is..."This is me & Elvis in Memphis"...OK, if YOU (under oath) say that's what it is then it is what is...according to YOU, Having never met Elvis & He not being here to attest to the fact...I'll notarize your description of the Photo...make note in journal that this YOUR description of the photo...I make no judgement?

Beeaar Kakwadi

20 Dec 2016

Is there any practical training workshop for new notary public to learn notarial act in Sacramento, California ?

National Notary Association

20 Dec 2016

Hello. The NNA offers live training courses in the Sacramento area. You can find more information at https://www.nationalnotary.org/california/become-a-notary/sacramento-stockton or call our Customer Care team at 1-800-876-6827.

Tiara

16 Jun 2017

Im currently working in China looking to change jobs and was told by a potential employer that I need to do a copy verification of my degree and tefl certificate, any ideas how long this process can take? Thanks!

National Notary Association

19 Jun 2017

Hello. We are sorry, but we cannot answer questions regarding a document verification request required by a business in a foreign country. You would need to ask for instructions from the potential employer what type of verification they are asking for and how long it normally takes.

Stacey

29 Aug 2017

I have been a notary for 30 years, and there is some confusion if certifying a copy of a drivers' license in the state of Oregon is acceptable. It used to be on advisement of the secretary of state that we do not as it is a state issued document, but on reading the current laws it is not exactly clear. It seems that if the completed certificate is precise in stating that the copy is a true copy of a document presented by the INDIVIDUAL in their possession (and not certified as a copy of an authentic document), then it is acceptable. Can you shed more light on this?

National Notary Association

30 Aug 2017

Hello. Page 51 of the state Notary Public Guide (http://sos.oregon.gov/business/Documents/notary-guide/notary-guide.pdf) says that Notaries may certify a copy of an Oregon Driver’s License.

Lanky

25 Sep 2017

I'm a little confused. If in Illinois you are asked to certify a copy, which is presented as the original and the copy, why can't you do it. And if you can't as a notary, who can do it?

National Notary Association

25 Sep 2017

Hello. Illinois law does not authorize Notaries to certify copies of documents.

Laura Dean

25 Sep 2017

Slightly off topic, but likely relvant to many notiaries in Calif. I'd like the NNA to formally address the practice of Copy Certificate by Document Custodian in Calif. The NNA used to provide forms for this, but now I find it almost impossible to obtain gudiance on this type of notarization and it's no longer addressed in NNA training for notaries either.

Lisa Jackson

18 Oct 2017

I'm doing a notary quiz off of the Secretary of State site for Colorado. There are three questions in this quiz and not only can I not pass them but three other lawyers can't either. No matter how many times we've answered it in several ways, it still says that did not pass

Amanda Wilson

31 Jan 2018

Can a Maryland notary, notarize a copy and certify as an original?

National Notary Association

01 Feb 2018

Hello. Maryland Notaries may only certify copies of entries in their Notary journals. They may not certify copies of other documents.

Cheryl Kaster

21 Sep 2018

Unfortunately, the NNA continues to sell to Hawaii Notaries the Copy Certification by Notary which is a notarial act that is NOT PERMITTED in Hawaii. So much for their concern. The warning that the Notary needs to know their state law doesn't make it so and the NNA should be well aware of this because they KNOW how desperately notaries in all states need to be educated about their state's laws and to educate themselves, and yet they will continue to sell a form of notarial act that is not permitted in Hawaii for the $$$,

National Notary Association

24 Sep 2018

Hello, Cheryl. We apologize for any confusion caused by the certificate. You are correct that Notaries in Hawaii may not certify copies of documents apart from their own journal entries. Our intent was to offer our general certificate that has the option of certifying a copy of the Notary’s journal entry, but we see where that has caused some confusion in this case. To prevent misunderstandings, we have removed the certificate from our Hawaii products page and will replace it with new certificate wording specifically for copies of Notary journal entries. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

Alisha Lamb

25 Oct 2018

I am in Ohio and work in HR for an IT firm, we have an employee who needs his paystubs notarized as originals to send overseas for purchase of property. Can I do this? Is it different than certifying a copy?

National Notary Association

25 Oct 2018

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.

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