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Notary Guidelines For Accepting Or Rejecting A Signer's ID

foreign-ID-resized.jpgUpdated 9-18-18. Identifying signers is one of the most important responsibilities of every Notary. But determining if a particular ID is acceptable can sometimes be a challenge.

Given the wide variety of IDs in the world, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across an unfamiliar ID at some point.

So how do you decide if it is acceptable? That depends on where you are commissioned. Guidelines can vary greatly from state to state, so you will need to be familiar with the ID requirements for your state. These guidelines will determine how much judgment or discretion a Notary must exercise in accepting or refusing an ID, as we shall see.

Some States Have Lists Of Acceptable IDs
 

Some states — such as California, Florida and Pennsylvania — provide specific lists of IDs. In these states, if the ID is not on the list, the Notary cannot accept it as proof of identity.

California permits Notaries to accept the following forms of identification:

  • A California driver’s license or nondriver’s ID
  • A U.S. passport (or passport card)
  • An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation if the inmate is in prison or any form of inmate identification issued by a sheriff’s department if the inmate is in custody in a local detention facility

California also permits the following IDs, provided they include a photograph, signature, description of the person and a serial or ID number:

  • A driver’s license or official nondriver’s ID issued by a U.S. state
  • A Canadian or Mexican driver’s license issued by an appropriate public agency
  • A U.S. military ID
  • A valid foreign passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship
  • An employee ID issued by an agency or office of a California city, county, or city and county
  • An identification card issued by a federally recognized tribal government
  • A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship that meets specific requirements. (Note: Matricula consular cards issued by the government of Mexico do not meet California's statutory requirements.)

Any of the identification documents listed above must be current or issued within the past five years in order to be accepted by California Notaries. Additional California Notary ID requirements are available in the “Identification” section of the state’s official 2018 Notary Public Handbook.

In Florida, the list of acceptable IDs includes the following. These IDs must be current or issued within the past five years and include a serial or other ID number:

  • A Florida identification card or driver’s license
  • A U.S. passport
  • A foreign passport if it is stamped by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Another state driver’s license or identification card issued by a U.S. state or a territory of the United States
  • A Canadian or Mexican driver’s license or an identification card
  • An identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States
  • A veteran health identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • 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
  • An inmate identification card issued by the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, for an inmate who is in the custody of the department
  • 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
  • An identification card issued by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services

Pennsylvania's new Notary laws effective October 26, 2017, updated the state's ID rules. Pennsylvania Notaries may now accept the following types of ID:

  • A passport, driver’s license or government-issued nondriver identification card, which is current and unexpired
  • Another form of government identification issued to an individual, which: (a) is current; (b) contains the signature or a photograph of the individual; and (c) is satisfactory to the notarial officer

If you live in one of these states, simply rely on the list. You don’t have to exercise much judgment, if any, in deciding whether or not to accept an ID.

Other States Set Standards For Acceptable ID
 

A number of states — such as TexasIllinois and Colorado — prescribe specific elements or information an acceptable ID must have.

Notaries in these states must exercise some judgment in determining whether or not to accept an ID presented for notarization. As long as the ID meets the specific guidelines, a Notary may accept it. For example, Texas requires an ID to be current, issued by the U.S. federal government or any U.S. state government and contain the photograph and signature of the signer (CPRC 121.005[a]). Colorado requires an ID to be a current identification card or document issued by a federal or state governmental entity containing a photograph and signature of the individual who is so named (CRS 12-55-110[4]).

States That Don’t Offer Guidance
 

Finally, a number of states — such as Kansas, Minnesota and New York — have laws that offer little to no guidance about acceptable IDs.

For Notaries in these states, the NNA recommends that you follow The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility best practice of requesting  a reliable ID that contains at least a photograph (see Standard III-B-1). A “reliable” ID would be issued by a government agency and be unexpired at the time it is presented. The decision of whether or not to accept an ID in these states is left completely to the judgment of the Notary.

Expired Or Suspicious IDs
 

Signers often produce expired IDs. But that doesn’t automatically mean you cannot accept it. Again, it depends on where you are commissioned.

Notaries in Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and West Virginia, which have enacted the Revised Uniform Law On Notarial Acts (RULONA), may accept an ID up to three years after it has expired.

More than a dozen states, including ​ArizonaIllinois and Virginia, specifically stipulate that IDs must be “current” or “valid” at the time of notarization; in these states, expired IDs are not allowed. This is a solid guideline to follow if you live in a state that does not specifically spell out what to do in the case of an expired signer ID. 

Finally, if you are presented with an unreliable or suspicious ID, the best action you can take is to have your signer provide an alternative form of ID, or use a different method to identify your signer, such as a credible witness or personal knowledge, depending on your state laws.

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31 Comments

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Marty Grenetsko

09 Nov 2015

OK

David A Lane

07 Nov 2016

"A driver’s license or ID card issued by any state or U.S. territory" While not technically either, this should include the District of Columbia. Before you laugh, the District has recently changed their driver's licenses to be in line with HSPD-12 (REAL ID) and now say "District of Columbia" rather than Washington, DC. This is important because they have been turned down as proof of ID for buying alcohol for example, which is causing a push by the District to educate those not in the close-in suburbs.

dolores P.Rosner

24 Apr 2017

learning how to spot bad ID

Rena Reinagel

30 Oct 2017

The 2017 CA Notary handbook does NOT say you can use a passport card (it doesn't meet the requirement since there is no signature on it).

National Notary Association

30 Oct 2017

Hello Rena. As we previously responded to you in April 2017, the CA Secretary of State's office has said that CA Notaries may accept passport cards as identification. For more information, please see here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2010/03/new-passport-cards-accepted-id

Danielle

30 Oct 2017

Photo copying of a military ID is not permitted and is punishable by law.

Jessica

30 Oct 2017

In CA, a passport card is not the same as a passport. I live by the border and when passport cards first came out (I've been a commissioned notary in CA for over 18 years), I called the Secretary of State to ask if they were an acceptable form of ID and classified same as passport. The Secretary of State's office said no, the passport card is not the same and doesn't follow guidelines. Also, military IDs (especially dependent cards) have removed physical descriptions and signatures. They are not allowed to be used for notarial acts unless they include those items. The 2017 handbook even includes a caveat in parenthesis to warn notaries in CA. I would appreciate the NNA consulting the Secretary of State's office before adding in items that don't qualify. Perhaps just reiterate what it says in the handbook. It makes my job harder when I notarize for someone and tell them the ID isn't sufficient and the signer tells me another notary accepted it.

National Notary Association

31 Oct 2017

Hello Jessica. Can you tell us the name of the person you spoke to at the Secretary of State's office? We contacted the Secretary of State's office today and they confirmed to us that passport cards are acceptable IDs for notarization in CA. They would like to find out who you spoke with that gave you the incorrect information.

GRISELDA ABONCE

31 Oct 2017

For clarifying purposes, is a California AB-60 driver's license for undocumented residents an acceptable form of I.D. for notarization in California? Thank you!

National Notary Association

03 Nov 2017

Hello. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/02/ca-driver-licenses-immigrants-need-to-know

Janet Gossom

31 Oct 2017

While the articles in this publication are well-written, this one has a grammatical error that I've seen before. It appears in the ninth bullet point following the heading, "Some States Have Lists . . ." Please note that words with "ly" as a prefix are never hyphenated. It's a long-standing grammatical rule, found in every style book I've ever referenced. I hope your writers will not continue to make this mistake. Thank you.

National Notary Association

31 Oct 2017

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We've removed the hyphen.

Jessica

31 Oct 2017

I called this morning at 11:15am and spoke with a clerk in the office. She transferred me to the supervisor--I didn't get his name--but we talked in length. He put me on hold and consulted someone else and we looked in the civil codes. He had me go to the civil code page 43 of the handbook. After he read through it aloud, he said notaries need to follow what is in the handbook and the guidelines. He agreed that the passport card and Military IDs do not qualify as other government issued IDs if they don't have a physical description and signature. He also reminded me that CA notaries are governed by laws set forth in our state and not governed by the NNA. In a court of law, can the ID we accepted be refuted? Item (B) clearly says a passport but does not say "and" passport card. Therefore, a passport card falls under the guidelines of number (4) of Civil Code 1185. I am just looking for clarity and if an ID is not acceptable, then credible witnesses. Number 4 of the credible witness oath has the credible witness attest to the fact that the signer doesn't possess any ID authorized by law. That's another reason for clarity. If the ID isn't sufficient and can be argued in a court of law, then I must use credible witnesses. If the ID is sufficient, then credible witnesses shouldn't be used.

National Notary Association

01 Nov 2017

Hello Jessica. Would it be possible for you to please email us directly at publications@nationalnotary.org and let us know the name of the supervisor you spoke with at the Secretary of State's office? We contacted the Notary Public Section directly after you contacted us with your question to ask if there have been any policy changes regarding passport cards, and as we said, they informed us that passport cards are acceptable IDs for notarization in CA. They would like to know who you are speaking to that is providing the contradictory information. Thanks.

Jared

15 Nov 2017

Government IDs are now more of an issue than they used to be. All IDs used to be signed, but now U.S. government and military IDs no longer have signatures on them. I was always informed that any unsigned ID, regardless of whether or not other criteria are met (name, serial number, expiration date, etc.) are not acceptable for notarization or even general ID purposes. I'm currently a notary in Virginia, but I have also been a notary in the District of Columbia and Maryland. I've never had an issue with any of the documents I've notarized, but I don't want to be legally liable where a signature on a document was not verified with a signature on a valid ID.

sharon rainey

23 Nov 2017

Is an expired ID acceptable for getting a form notarized in Maryland?

National Notary Association

27 Nov 2017

Hello. Maryland law does not specify whether an ID must be current or expired. The state Handbook for Notaries Public says, "“Satisfactory proof is that amount of proof which is sufficient to convince the notary public that the person making the acknowledgment is the person described in the document, and the one who executed it. A good rule for a notary public to follow would be to require such proof of identification as he or she would require to cash a very large check for that person”

Steven English

05 Dec 2017

Are SENTRI cards acceptable? https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/sentri Thanks!

National Notary Association

05 Dec 2017

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

Devonne West

29 Mar 2018

As a TX notary, is an expired FL driver's license an acceptable form of ID?

National Notary Association

29 Mar 2018

Hello. No, Texas Notaries may only accept current federal or state government-issued identification documents that include the photograph and signature of the signer. (CPRC 121.005[a])

Uchenna Offor

15 Apr 2018

In TX, can expired licenses be used to sign a notary? If not, how about a social security card?

National Notary Association

16 Apr 2018

Hello. No, neither of the documents you list is acceptable as a form of signer ID. In Texas, an identification document must be a current identification card or other document issued by the federal government or any state government that contains the photograph and signature of the acknowledging person (CPRC 121.005[a]).

Carrie

16 Apr 2018

I'm in Kansas so we have minimal guidance on ID issues. Most of the time it isn't a problem, but every once in a while we see a Tribal ID. Would those be acceptable if they have photo, signature, and description? I also had a very unusual one recently, an Allodial American National ID. Would this form of ID be acceptable?

National Notary Association

17 Apr 2018

Hello. While Kansas does not provide specific criteria for identification documents, the state Notary Public Handbook recommends that identification should include "a photograph on a reliable identification card."

Heatherly

23 Apr 2018

"Effective January 1, 2017, California Notaries will be able to accept valid consular IDs as satisfactory proof of identity." So why is it stated otherwise on this article?

National Notary Association

23 Apr 2018

Hello. CA Notaries may accept valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship that meets the state's statutory requirements. Please note that the section on CA acceptable IDs also says, "Matricula consular cards issued by the government of Mexico do not meet California's statutory requirements." To be accepted as proof of identity in California, a consular ID must must be current or issued in the past five years, have a serial or identification number, and contain the signature, photograph and description of the individual. The specific 'matricula consular' cards issued by the government of Mexico are not acceptable under CA law, because they lack a physical description of the bearer. However, CA Notaries may accept consular IDs issued by other countries that meet the state's requirements. Please see this article for additional information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2016/10/state--notaries-accept-matricula-cards

Alan Fotheringham

12 Sep 2018

I need to have something Notarized in Utah, but I have an out of state expired ID from last year, I need to get my birth certificate,so I can get a Utah ID. What am I supposed to do?

National Notary Association

12 Sep 2018

Hello. You would need to contact the recording office where your birth certificate is recorded to request a certified copy.

MEDEL D ABLOLA

24 Sep 2018

Is a senior citizen ID card issued by CA DMV considered a valid identification card?

National Notary Association

25 Sep 2018

Hello. California Notaries may accept an identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, provided the ID card or license is current or issued within the past 5 years.

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