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Handling Certified Copies Of Public Records And Other Unusual Notary Requests

Certified copies of public records

Updated 9-11-18. Many Notaries have been asked to notarize copies of birth certificates. But if you are asked to notarize birth certificates, marriage certificates or other public records, you first need to know these important facts.

Vital Records: Birth, Death And Marriage Certificates

Notaries are often asked if they can certify copies ​of birth, death or marriage certificates. As a general rule the answer is no because these documents are vital records — public records that cannot be certified by a Notary Public. In the United States, an original vital record is kept by the appropriate public record office, which is normally the only authority allowed to issue certified copies of the vital record. In fact, states including Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas and Texas explicitly prohibit Notaries from certifying copies of vital records though they permit certifying copies of other types of documents. California Notaries may only certify copies of powers of attorney, or copies of the Notary's own journal entries if requested by the Secretary of State or a court. 

Can Copies Of “Recordable Documents” Be Copy Certified?

A trickier issue is certifying copies of recordable documents — that is, a document that may be filed with an official agency. Whether you may certify a copy of such a document depends on your state’s rules.

Some states, including Arizona and Texas, prohibit certifying copies of any recordable documents. Georgia prohibits copy certification for publicly recordable documents, such as divorce decrees and university transcripts. Delaware goes a step further and prohibits its Notaries from certifying copies of any official or public records.

If your state prohibits certifying copies of recordable documents, it’s important to know it doesn’t matter whether the copy is actually going to be recorded or not — if the original document is potentially recordable at a public records office, you can’t certify the copy.

Certifying Copies Of Driver’s Licenses, Passports And Other Forms Of ID

While not strictly public records, sometimes Notaries are asked to certify copies of official identification documents such as driver’s licenses or passports. Again, this depends on your state.

Florida and Massachusetts permit certifying copies of U.S. passports or driver’s licenses. Georgia allows copy certification ​of a U.S. passport but requires the passport holder to provide an affidavit. Mississippi prohibits Notaries from certifying copies of driver’s licenses or passports unless the Notary is an employee of the government agency that issued the ID. And some states such as Illinois do not permit Notaries to certify copies of any documents. If you are asked to certify a copy of an unusual document and aren’t sure if it’s permissible, always check your state requirements first, or contact your state Notary regulating office. NNA members can also contact the Notary Hotline for assistance.

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

42 Comments

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L. Cowles

26 Sep 2016

Hello-- Just wanted to clarify--for COLORADO, we can certify Vital Record copies from OTHER states, just NOT those issued within Colorado. (I literally had to call our Sec'y State office today regarding this rule.) Read your blog regularly, very helpful--thank you!

Candace Porter

26 Sep 2016

I've been asked to notarize all versions of the before mentioned docs/copy of docs, and have not (CA). However, my question is this, can the individual provide a statement to the authenticity of said doc/copy of doc and rightfully request that I notarize their statement?

LeRoy E. Casey

27 Sep 2016

I'm a California notary. I've been asked to certify a number of recordable documents; a fairly frequent request. I hope I'm handling the request properly. I always tell the client that with very few exceptions, I'm prohibited by California notarial law from notarizing or certifying any document that is provided by a government entity, but I CAN provide a "Statement of Facts", where the affiant swears that the copy of the document is a true and unaltered copy of the original. Is this acceptable?

National Notary Association

28 Sep 2016

Hello. No, a signer may not swear that a copy of a vital record is a true and unaltered copy of an original before the Notary, because the original is kept by the recording office, not the signer.

Julie Brickley

28 Sep 2016

COLORADO - L. Cowles is correct. As long as certified copy is not available from any clerk/respository of public records in THIS STATE (CO), it is permissible to certify copy. They will also apostille without incident. Living in a city with five military installations, we run across this on a regular basis. Kudos L. Cowles for being on to of the law! P.S. What part of CO... we should have coffee :-)

Cynthia Riley

03 Oct 2016

I am a CA notary I work on a college campus, and am often asked to certify copies of official identification documents such as driver’s licenses or passports. Can I notarize their statement of it being a true copy of the original in their possession?

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2016

Hello. If a signer asks for you to do this you may do so, however as a Notary you should not suggest this procedure to a signer.

Nicki Walsh

21 Nov 2016

Can we (copy certification) foreign marriage / birth certifications

National Notary Association

21 Nov 2016

Hi Nicki. Copy certification rules vary depending on state law. Usually Notaries are not permitted to copy certify vital records such as marriage and birth certificates, because typically the recording office holds the original and is the only agency that may issue certified copies. If you can tell us what state you are commissioned in, we can give you more specific information.

Barbara

21 Nov 2016

Can a power of attorney be issued in the state of Ohio for use in a foreign country

National Notary Association

21 Nov 2016

Hello. We're sorry, but that's a legal question we aren't authorized to answer. You would need to consult with a qualified attorney for assistance.

Darya

13 Mar 2017

Hello. Is Pennsylvania notary permitted to certify copies of official identification documents such as driver’s licenses and passports?

National Notary Association

14 Mar 2017

Hello. Pennsylvania Notaries may certify copies of documents except for certain federal, state and county records where the original document is held by a government agency, such as birth records, death records and marriage records.

Sharon

02 Oct 2017

Birth certificate is in Spanish. Can I notarize a paper for someone who states the translation into English from Spanish was done by them and correct and they sign that in front of me. My thinking is I am just notarizing her signature - she is the one saying it is correct. I know this person speaks fluent Spanish.

National Notary Association

03 Oct 2017

Hello. Yes, you may notarize a translator's signature on a document where the signer is stating that they translated a document accurately.

Jamie Hogston

02 Oct 2017

Notarize a letter stating the writer was the writer? Ok? How?

James

03 Oct 2017

Several years ago I was asked to certify a copy of an Illinois driver license. I am a Wisconsin notary, so I was reluctant to do it because I did not know if I had the authority to do it. Wisconsin law is unclear about driver licenses but I subsequently check the website for the DMV and they said it was not permitted The customer insisted that it was legal for IL driver license. I now find out in this article that it is not permitted to certify IL driver license. I fear that I have broken a law of IL by doing this, even though my certification had a venue of Wisconsin. Do you think I acted corrrectly?

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2017

Hello, James. We're sorry, but we can't advise you on legal matters. You would need to speak to an attorney to determine if you have broken a law in this situation.

L Jackson

18 Oct 2017

is the difference between an oath, an affirmation and an acknowledgment-Oaths and affirmations are sworn documents, while an acknowledgment validates a document? A notary may certify a copy of what in Colorado?--Colorado driver license Colorado marriage license from a county clerk and recorder's office in Colorado Colorado university or college diploma United States passport Kansas birth certificate F.B.I. background check whose reproduction violates federal law Boulder County warranty deed from the county clerk and recorder's office in Boulder, Colorado Is it true that If a notarial certificate is not included on a document, the notary may select any certificate they wish?

National Notary Association

19 Oct 2017

Hello. Regarding your questions: 1. For answers to your questions regarding oaths, affirmations and acknowledgments, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/04/key-differences-acknowledgment-jurat-certificates 2. Colorado Notaries may not certify copies of birth or marriage certificates, or any document for which a certified copy can be obtained from a public records office or document custodian's office. Colorado Notaries may not certify copies of documents which are illegal to copy. (CRS 12-55-120[1]). 3. Notaries may not determine the type of certificate wording or notarial act a document requires. That decision must be made by the signer. We strongly recommend that if you need detailed answers to your questions that you contact our Hotline Team at hotline@nationalnotary.org.

Sinthia

06 Dec 2017

In AL as a Notary am I allowed to certify that a DL or SS card is authentic and true? This state does not provide specific details. Most rules are vague.

National Notary Association

08 Dec 2017

Hello. No, Alabama Notaries are not authorized to certify the authenticity of a driver's license or Social Security card.

Jessica Ca.

02 May 2018

A friend asked me to notarize a document stating her spouse is her spouse. Under California am I able to do so?

National Notary Association

03 May 2018

Hello Jessica. To help us answer your question, can you tell us what type of notarization is being requested and whose signature you are being asked to notarize?

Renness Tomley

10 May 2018

Can you discus Copy Certification by Document Custodian and what can and can’t be notarized in California. The signer chooses between a jurat or an acknowledgment

National Notary Association

10 May 2018

Hello. Please see these two articles for more information about copy certification restrictions in California: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/10/important-facts-notaries-copy-certification https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/10/important-facts-notaries-copy-certification

Lynn

05 Sep 2018

Can a MD notary certify a copy of a Background Check for a resident of Michigan?

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2018

Hello. No, Maryland Notaries must provide a certified copy of an entry from their Notary journals if requested and a $2 fee is paid, but may not certify copies of any other types of documents.

Kim, IN

10 Sep 2018

I have been asked to notarize a copy of o birth certificate for someone that was born out of country. They provided both the original and the copy along with passport. It was for out of country travel. Is this allowed?

National Notary Association

11 Sep 2018

Hello Kim. According to Indiana's Notary Public Guide, Indiana Notaries do not have authority to create or certify copies of official records or documents.

Rich

10 Sep 2018

Advance Health Directives - Can they be Certified.

National Notary Association

11 Sep 2018

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

Nadia

11 Sep 2018

Can we notarize copies of foreing public records documents. So I have a situation where I am ask to notiraze a copy of Moldova ID, to be used in Moldova.

National Notary Association

12 Sep 2018

Hello. You would still need to follow your state laws regarding notarization of public records. So if your state prohibits notarizing copies of public records, you would be prohibited from notarizing copies of foreign public records as well.

Liz

04 Oct 2018

Can i certify a copy of my husband's passport and green card?

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2018

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

sally Grace

24 Oct 2018

I am in PA with a UK marriage certificate that i need to get a certified copy of? Any idea who can do that for me?

National Notary Association

25 Oct 2018

Hello. Pennsylvania Notaries may not certify copies of marriage records. You may wish to contact a UK embassy or consulate near you to find out if a consular official can assist you.

Waleed Omer

25 Feb 2019

Hi, Can a friend certified a copy of my immigration document in California?

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2019

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.

L . P.

24 Mar 2019

Hi. I'm in CO. Can I certify copies of a GED once I have inspected the original?

National Notary Association

26 Mar 2019

Hello. Colorado Notaries may certify copies of documents unless the document can be obtained from one of the following offices: A clerk and recorder of public documents; The Secretary of State; The state archives; or an office of vital records. Also, a notarial officer shall not certify a copy of a record if the record states on its face that it is illegal to copy the record (CRS 24-21-505[4][b]).

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