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Notarization And Technology: Dealing With Unusual Requests

Performing notarizations using a webcam

Updated 6-21-19. Notaries are sometimes asked to notarize using unorthodox technology such as a webcam instead of personal appearance. Other unusual tech-related requests include 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?

Major companies and small businesses across the globe are relying more and more on teleconferencing to conduct business meetings and other transactions. 

Several 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). Everywhere else, 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 that have not enacted remote notarization laws.

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 with the witness to administer the oath or affirmation.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you also will 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

1 Comment

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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.

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