Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org 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.

Are International IDs Acceptable For Notarizations?

Are International IDs Acceptable For Notarizations?

Updated 10-4-17. Your signer is from Jordan, Kenya, Iceland or Mexico. He produces the only ID document he has — a passport from his country. It’s a little worse for wear and you’re unclear whether it has expired. The obvious question comes to mind: “Can I accept this?”

With 43 million people from other countries living in the United States, there’s a good chance that you’ve encountered this circumstance. No matter how thorough you are about other details, any notarization is only as good as the quality of the signer’s identification. It can be challenging for a Notary to keep up with the hundreds of different types of IDs issued by state and federal government agencies. Figuring out which foreign identification documents you can accept can be downright daunting.

The professional standard of practice would be to accept foreign IDs if issued by a government agency and include the bearer’s recent photograph, signature and physical description. But foreign IDs don’t always come with all those elements.

Foreign Passports
 

Foreign passports are the most commonly-acceptable form of foreign identification for notarization, but state laws vary on the requirements.

One common requirement is that the passport must be stamped by USCIS. Among the states with laws allowing Notaries to accept a properly-stamped passport are Florida, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Tennessee and Wyoming. California also has this restriction. However, as of January 1, 2017, California Notaries may accept a foreign passport without a USCIS stamp.

Other states that allow foreign passports do not specify that they must be stamped. These include Iowa, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, Montana, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. With the exception of South Carolina and Utah, these states allow expired passports so long as the date of expiration is not more than three years before of the notarization.

Some states have more stringent requirements for foreign passports. California, Florida and Tennessee, for example, require all foreign passports to include a serial or ID number as well as a photo, physical description and signature of the holder — even if stamped by USCIS. Massachusetts requires passports to contain a signature and photograph. Oregon requires a foreign passport to be from a nation federally recognized by the United States.

In Arizona, a foreign passport may be used to identify signers for documents conveying or financing real property, and in Texas, for a deed or other document relating to a residential real estate transaction. However, neither of these states allow a foreign passport to be used for any other type of document.

Other Types Of International Identification
 

State laws allow Notaries to accept very few other foreign IDs.

California allows driver’s licenses issued by Mexico and Canada that contain a serial number, photograph, physical description and signature. Florida also allows these driver’s licenses if the license has a serial number. In both of these states, the license does not have to be current as long as it was issued within the past five years.

In Arizona, when dealing with real estate conveyances and financing, you may accept any other valid, unexpired ID that is acceptable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to establish an individual’s legal presence in the United States and that is accompanied with supporting documents as required by DHS. Notaries in the state may check the Arizona Notary Public Reference Manual for more information.

One type of ID that causes confusion is a consular ID issued by the consulate of a foreign country. Matricula consular cards issued by Mexican consulates are among the most common of these. They look very official and reliable — especially the newer versions — but only Notaries in Illinois and Nevada are specifically allowed to accept them. Matricula cards have been controversial because of concerns that they are vulnerable to fraud. California Notaries may accept foreign consular IDs as proof of identity under a state law that took effect January 2017 if the ID is current or issued in the past five years, has a serial or identification number, and contains the signature, photograph and description of the bearer. However, Mexican 'matricula consular' cards may not be accepted under the California law because they lack a physical description of the bearer. 

Where Guidance About IDs Is Not Provided
 

Many states do not mention foreign passports or foreign IDs by name in their laws, but present a list of general requirements for any IDs Notaries may accept.

If you are a Notary in one of these states, check your state’s Notary handbook or commissioning agency’s website for guidance. For example, Georgia’s Notary Handbook states that Notaries may accept a foreign passport duly stamped by the USCIS.

If a signer has no identification at all, depending on the state you can still rely on one or more credible identifying witnesses regardless of citizenship or immigration status. In addition, for Notaries in Delaware and Virginia, a signer may present an alien registration card (U.S. Permanent Resident or “green” card) with a photograph.

Foreign IDs That Notaries Should Not Accept
 

Don’t forget that foreign IDs also are often printed in a foreign language. Unless you understand the language on your client’s passport or the passport contains an English translation within it, you shouldn’t accept it. After all, you wouldn’t be able to verify the particulars of your client’s identity. Of course, under no circumstances should you rely on a third party to translate information for you.

Notary Essentials

 

As the world becomes more sophisticated in dealing with identifications, more and more different types of foreign IDs are likely to be presented as satisfactory evidence. The key, as always, is not to let the bells and whistles confuse you. Just stick to the basics of satisfactory evidence.

If you have questions about what is allowed in your state, try the NNA Hotline.

Want to brush up on your notarization skills? Notary Essentials can give you the expertise you need to perform the most common notarial acts in your state with ease and accuracy.

Additional Resources:

Notary Law Primers

 


 

16 Comments

Add your comment

Diane Lane

02 Nov 2015

our company has a satellite operation in Mexico. their drivers licenses don't always have photos. I've known these people for over 15 years, since we can't use 'known by notary' as a n acceptable ID, what are my options?

National Notary Association

04 Nov 2015

Hello Diane. To help us answer your question, can you please clarify: are you located in California or another bordering state?

Nancy

31 Oct 2016

What are the requirements for new jersey concerning state federal and foreign government ids?

National Notary Association

31 Oct 2016

Hi Nancy. New Jersey's ID guidelines for notarizations don't specifically address the question of accepting U.S. or state-issued ID versus foreign ID. The “New Jersey Notary Public Manual” instructs that signers present “at least one form of identification (ID) that provides a physical description of the signer — e.g., driver’s license. Note: Identification documents are not required if: 1) the signer is personally known to the Notary; or 2) a credible witness, known to both the signer and Notary, swears to the identity of the signer.”

L. Turner

31 Oct 2016

Regarding the excerpt from above article: "One type of ID that causes confusion is a consular ID issued by the consulate of a foreign country. Matricula consular cards issued by Mexican consulates are among the most common of these. They look very official and reliable — especially the newer versions — but only Notaries in Illinois, Nevada and California (as of January 1, 2017) are specifically allowed to accept them." As I commented with the last article you posted about Matricula consular cards I.D.'s becoming legally acceptable for California notaries as of Jan. 2017, they are a NOT legally acceptable form of I.D. because they do not contain a physical description. It is inscrutable as to why they are being touted as acceptable as of next year, when I called the California Secretary of State's office and was informed that if they do not have a physical description, they are not acceptable. Please post the correct information.

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2016

Hello. We reviewed the article in question and found that there was conflicting information regarding the Mexican "matricula consular" card. While consular IDs issued by other nations do include a physical description, Mexico's does not. We have updated both articles to remove the incorrect information and apologize for any confusion.

L. Turner

31 Oct 2016

How is it that US passports are acceptable I.D. for notaries when they do not include a physical description?

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2016

Hello. Some state laws allow Notaries to accept passport is acceptable proof of signer ID for a notarization, even though the passport does not include a physical description. For example, California Civil Code 1185 specifically lists a U.S. passport as an acceptable form of signer identification. Some other forms of ID accepted in California (such as a US military ID) are required by statute to include a physical description.

L. Turner

01 Nov 2016

The California Secretary of State office says that if a form of I.D. does not include the physical description, the notary may not use it to identify a signer. That includes the Matricula consular cards from Mexico, mentioned above. SOS office told me this in a phone conversation. Please clarify why the NNA is saying that this will be an acceptable form of I.D. as of January 2017, when these I.D. do NOT have a physical description.

L. Turner

02 Nov 2016

Thank you very much for clarifying the information about the Matricula consular cards, and the acceptance of US Passports in California.

Kevin Burke

28 May 2017

A rant from a notary abroad: As an American lawyer in the UK, a Florida international notary and as an English notary public, I have to point out some things which are really frustrating. 1. Stop automatically requiring foreign persons to go to the US Embassy. Please recognise the use of foreign notaries! The Hague Convention permits the use of foreign notaries and all US states (and its states) accept Please consider permitting foreign persons outside the USA to use local foreign notaries and not automatically insist on going to the US Embassy in the relevant nation. In the UK for example you cannot simply drop in or even telephone for an appointment and a request is made online with an appointment - if you're lucky - being available in about 21 days. Many times there simply are no appointments available at all on their calendars for months. You should note that it is very unpleasant to go to a US Embassy for a notarisation or otherwise (it's similar to an extensive dealing with TSA when going to an airport), as well as the fact that funnily enough, not all foreign nationals live within just a few hours of a US Embassy. 2. Realise that an appointment for a notary will need to be made in advance. I get it. You’re with a title company, a bank, or law firm, and want foreign persons abroad who receive documents for a real estate closing on a Friday to get them notarised on that Friday. Or, the documents were delayed and you want the clients to see someone on the weekend. However, notaries abroad are typically all lawyers and appointments will need to be made in advance and fees will normally be charged for time spent on a lawyer's hourly rate. Even what appears to you to be a two minute job will likely take a minimum of 20 minutes. Please stop blindly requiring foreign persons abroad to go to a local bank to get documents notarised. Importantly, don’t accept a solicitor or other lawyer where a notary is required to be used, I have seen a solicitor “notarise” the signing of a Florida deed. This was invalid, it’s got to be a notary. 3. A USCIS stamp is not always required. The requirement referred to in the above article that a foreign passport should always have a USCIS stamp should not be blindly followed by US title companies, lawyers and banks, etc. who are dealing with the notarisation of US documents being notarised abroad. Clearly, the USCIS stamp is only to be required of a foreign person where the foreign person signing the document to be notarised is signing outside of the USA. People who don't travel to the US can need documents notarised abroad and providing the same forms or instructions to the notary abroad (such as myself) is ridiculous. I have many UK clients who for example buy property in Florida or sign business contracts without ever traveling to the USA. They will naturally not have a USCIS stamp on their passports. Also, notaries abroad have their own regulations such as they often are not permitted to leave blanks on the forms "to be filled out later".

Kevin Burke

28 May 2017

Apostilles (documents which certify that the notary is a notary) are not prepared by the foreign notary himself or herself. For example, in the UK, a document notarised by a UK notary public would need to be mailed to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London for the apostille. This usually comes back in about three days, Also, almost all US states are party to uniform notarial acts which often are incorporated into the state's statutes and which permit the use of foreign notaries. It is only being fair to permit foreign nationals to use local notaries. I know if a US person was buying property in the UK that he or she would not be happy to be told they had to drive or fly for hours and back to see a UK notary in a UK consulate in some other state. Apparently, it's difficult for Americans to understand why British citizens would not be happy to take a day off work for the pleasure of dealing with embassy staff.

Stephen E Swetz

16 Oct 2017

In your article you stated " Florida also allows these driver’s licenses if the license has a serial number. In both of these states, the license does not have to be current as long as it was issued within the past five years" Ok, so my question is : do you mean five years from the issue date, or actually 5 years from the expiration date?

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2017

Five years from the issue date. Florida law specifies that identification presented for a notarization must be current or issued within the past 5 years (FS 117.05).

Luz Rose

16 Oct 2017

I have not seen a physical description in a passport...so can we still use it?"Some states have more stringent requirements for foreign passports. California, Florida and Tennessee, for example, require all foreign passports to include a serial or ID number as well as a photo, physical description and signature of the holder"

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2017

To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.