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Notary Tip: Using supplementary ID

Updated 7-11-23. The most important part of a Notary’s duty is verifying the identities of signers. But if you're unsure about a signer's identification document, can you ask for additional ID? 

Generally, you can ask for a secondary ID, but just what type of ID depends on your state’s regulations. Some states have very strict requirements regarding the types of ID you may use, while others are less so. And the rest leave it up to the Notary to decide what they will accept. 

A common issue confounding Notaries is the disparity between the signer’s appearance and their ID photo and/or description. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your signer is an impostor. In many states ID photos aren’t updated for a decade or longer, and a person’s appearance can change dramatically in that time. In Arizona, for example, standard driver’s license and ID card photos are only updated every 12 years until the driver reaches age 65, though REAL ID-compliant Voluntary Travel IDs issued by the Arizona Department of Transportation must be renewed every eight years. 

States with strict ID rules

States such as Florida, California and Tennessee provide specific lists of IDs that Notaries may rely on to verify a signer’s identity. We call these states “strict” because they limit Notaries to accepting only the specific IDs on the list.

These lists always include state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards; U.S. and often foreign passports; and various other specific U.S. or government-issued ID. If you’re a Notary in a state with strict ID rules, make sure to check you state Notary laws for the specific IDs you can use.

If you are in one of these jurisdictions, you may ask for a second ID, but it must come from your state’s list. In California, if a Notary is uncertain about the state-issued driver’s license, they could not rely on a school ID with the holder’s photo and signature. But they could accept an employee ID issued by a California city, county, or city and county agency, or military ID, provided it is current or has been issued in the past five years and has a serial number, photograph, signature and description of the individual.

States with general ID rules

Other states have laws that prescribe the elements an ID must have but stop short of listing the specific IDs that are acceptable. We’ll categorize these states as having “general” ID rules. In North Carolina, Notaries may accept a current document issued by a federal, state, or federal or state-recognized tribal governmental agency that contains the photograph of the bearer’s face and either the signature or a physical description of the bearer. In Texas, Notaries may accept 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.

In these states, you have wider range of acceptable supplemental ID available that meet the general rules. However, any ID you rely on must still have all the elements required by statute or rule.

States without ID rules

Finally, some states do not have any requirements for the types of ID you may accept, but some may offer optional guidelines for Notaries to follow. Alabama, for example, suggests an identification that includes a photo, physical description and signature. Arkansas recommends using a government-issued identification card that includes the signer's picture and signature.

In these states, Notaries have the most latitude in deciding what constitutes acceptable, supplementary ID because only the Notary must be satisfied, not a specific state law.

While you could potentially accept a university ID or library card, keep in mind, however, that you may have to defend your decision if the notarization is challenged later.

Keep in mind that Social Security cards and similar documents are easily forged and lack the elements — such as a photo and physical description — that would help you verify that your signer is who they claim to be. In addition, if you have doubts about the primary ID your signer produced, don’t lower your standards for a supplemental ID. Always remember you’re on the line when you certify that a signer with a claimed identity appears before you.

A final recommendation about marriage licenses

Notaries often ask if a marriage license constitutes acceptable supplementary ID. Usually, they are faced with a situation in which a newly married woman is signing a document in her married name, but only has an ID issued in her maiden name. A marriage license typically contains little identifying information. Therefore, the NNA does not recommend relying on a marriage license as a form of supplementary ID.

Related Articles:

Identifying Signers: A Notary’s greatest challenge

Additional Resources:

NNA Tips & Tutorials

The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility


Add your comment

27 Feb 2017

State issued firearm owner I.D.'s may also suffice for secondary I.D. Please change my email address as shown herein.

National Notary Association

28 Feb 2017

Hello. If you are an NNA member and need your records updated, please contact our Customer Care team directly at 1-800-876-6827 or with your member number and name and they can assist you.

Laurel Fish

07 Mar 2018

In the final section of the article you state, understandably, that a marriage license is not sufficient ID. Is there anything that I, as a notary, can do if I am faced with a situation in which, "a newly married woman is signing a document in her married name, but only has an ID issued in her maiden name"? Is the only option for the woman to wait until she receives an updated ID?

National Notary Association

08 Mar 2018

Hello. It depends on your state's laws. What state are you commissioned in, please?


18 Feb 2019

I reside in California, can we use Matricula ID to identify the signer? They have picture of the signer and information like a regular ID from ca.

National Notary Association

20 Feb 2019

Hello. A matricula consular card issued by the government of Mexico does not meet CA ID requirements for notarization and cannot be accepted as proof of a signer's identity. For more information, please see here:

Rochelle Williams

18 Feb 2019

This was very helpful and informative


02 Mar 2020

Military Id's no longer have a physical description. Passports never had a physical description. Most difficulty is that now people do not have an ID with their middle initial and or their middle name. Very difficult. California


19 Oct 2022

My signer has a driver’s license with her maiden name and is waiting for her passport to arrive with her married name, the name in which she plans to sign. What is my best form of identity for her? Should I tell her to use credible witnesses? Is her spouse, whose named on the document, an acceptable witness?

National Notary Association

21 Oct 2022

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


02 Jan 2023

renewing minors passport

Jerry Lucas

03 Jun 2023

Colorado allows a passport to be used for ID. But, if a foreign passport is written in a foreign language, and does not use the Latin alphabet, and does not include an English translation, the notary will not be able to read it. Colorado also requires the address of the signer to be included in the notary journal. Passports do not provide address information, so another form of ID is required, with an address.

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