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Notarization And Technology: Dealing With Unusual Requests

Performing notarizations using a webcam

Updated 7-13-23. Notaries are sometimes asked to notarize using different types of communications technology, such as speaking with a signer via webcam, identifying a witness who is providing testimony via telephone or notarizing a faxed document signature. We asked our NNA Hotline experts how to handle these requests.

Can I use FaceTime or a webcam in lieu of personal appearance?

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic drove a major change in the use of audiovisual communication technology for notarizations. More than 40 U.S. states have enacted laws authorizing remote online notarizations (which allow a signer to appear before a Notary using online audiovisual technology instead of physical appearance). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states also issued emergency remote notarization orders temporarily authorizing Notaries to perform remote ink-signed notarizations or use other types of remote communication between signers and Notaries as alternatives to personal appearance during the pandemic emergency, though as of July 2023 most of these emergency orders have expired.

Notaries must be careful to follow any rules set by state law or emergency guidelines when performing a remote notarization. In many states, the Notary may only use a technology provider or audiovisual communication system that meets state requirements, and may not substitute another communications method that does not meet statutory and/or emergency guidelines. 

In all other cases, Notaries must require signers to physically appear before them at the time of the notarization. Remote audiovisual technology cannot be used to satisfy the personal appearance requirement in states such as California that have not enacted remote online notarization laws or emergency remote notarization guidelines.

Am I allowed to witness a telephone hearing?

More and more small claims court judges are permitting testimony over the telephone when a witness is unavailable to appear in person due to work, illness or disability. In such cases, Notaries may be asked to identify the witness.

This is acceptable as long as you are physically present in the same location as the witness to administer the oath or affirmation.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you may be expected to file a written certification with the court verifying the identity of the witness and that you administered the affirmation or oath. The exact procedures vary from state to state.

While the testimony is given over the telephone, your role within the hearing remains consistent with any other type of notarization because the witness is in your physical presence.

Can I accept faxed copies of documents?

The general rule when it comes to faxed documents is that a photocopy or fax may be notarized, but only if the signature is original — in pen and ink. However, faxed or photocopied documents containing an original, notarized signature may be declined by public recorders, particularly in the case of a poor reproduction.

Additional Resources:

Notary Essentials

NNA Membership

View All: Notary News


Add your comment


09 Feb 2016

I am a NYS Notary Public and it has been my experience that though most law firms widely use today's technology, they still prefer to use regular notarizations - where the signer and Notary Public are present at the same time.

Mary Sarah Burrowes

21 Jun 2021

Personal appearance is still the most reliable. Given the sophistication of modern technology and the realism with which photo and video can be produced, a notary must take extra-special care and be very alert when performing remote notarizations. Special software can help but I know there have been proposals to dispense with that requirement in many areas. To my way of thinking that would be a first step in devaluing the role of a Notary and would call into question any remote notarization.

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