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3 Facts California Notaries Should Know For Identifying Signers

3 facts California Notaries need to know for identifying signers

California has some of the most detailed and strict identification laws in the nation when it comes to notarizations. Here are important rules Notaries in the Golden State need to remember when verifying a customer’s identity.

1. California Does Not Allow A Signer To Be Identified Through Personal Knowledge

Even if a Notary is personally acquainted with a signer, state law prohibits using personal knowledge to identify document signers. Every signer must be identified through one of the identification documents or other methods listed in California Code 1185[b]:

1. A California driver’s license or nondriver’s ID

2. A U.S. passport (or passport card)

3. 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)

4. A driver’s license or official nondriver’s ID issued by a U.S. state

5. A Canadian or Mexican driver’s license issued by an appropriate public agency

6. A U.S. military ID

7. A valid foreign passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship

8. An employee ID issued by an agency or office of a California city, county, or city and county

9. An identification card issued by a federally-recognized tribal government

10. A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship that meets specific requirements (see #3 below).

11. The oath or affirmation of one or two credible witnesses

All of the identification documents listed above must be current or issued within the past five years in order to be accepted by California Notaries. For additional information, please see the “Identification” section of the state’s official 2017 Notary Public Handbook.

2. California Notaries Must Identify Signers For Jurats And Acknowledgments  

Even though it’s a standard of professional practice, many states do not require signers to present proof of identity for jurats — but California does. Just like acknowledgments, a signer requesting a jurat must be identified using one of the forms of identification in California Code 1185[b] as described above.

3. Not All Consular IDs Are Acceptable

As of January 2017, California Notaries may now accept ID cards issued by foreign consulates as proof of a signer’s identity — but there are some restrictions. In order to be accepted, the consular ID 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 bearer. It’s important to note that the “matricula consular” IDs issued by Mexican consulates do not meet these requirements and cannot be accepted as satisfactory evidence of a signer’s identity in California.

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

Additional Resources:

NNA Keesing Documentchecker Guide




Add your comment


24 Apr 2017

The 2017 CA Notary Handbook does not say a passport card maybe used as identification. There is no signature on them.

National Notary Association

24 Apr 2017

Hello. The CA Secretary of State's office previously said that CA Notaries may accept passport cards as identification. For more information, please see here:

Maryanne Brown

24 Apr 2017

Good Morning - Just checking my email and wanted to read what was new

Jan Peck

24 Apr 2017

This article may lead to a lot of illegal notarizations in California!! Yes, the article refers you to the CA Handbook, but how many will actually GO to the Handbook? Notaries! Items 4 through 10 above are ONLY acceptable as California Identification IF they ALSO contain the following: photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number. Many new Military IDs, for example, have all the information in a bar code. There is no signature, physical description, etc. And they cannot be used. Please read the actual California Handbook yourself and do not rely on the list above. Also Item 8 above left out employee IDs issued by the STATE of California. This list fails to state that the credible witnesses must also have one of the approved forms of ID.

National Notary Association

24 Apr 2017

Hello Jan. As you mentioned, we included the link the CA Notary Handbook above so that readers who wished to do so can read the full identification provisions for California.

Jack Crawford

24 Apr 2017

What about a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)? Is that acceptable in CA?

National Notary Association

25 Apr 2017

Hello. For the purposes of preparing for submission of forms required by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, (and only for such purposes) a CA Notary may also accept for identification any documents or declarations acceptable to the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. (CA Government Code, section 8230, also see page 39 of the CA Secretary of State's 2017 Notary Public Handbook: A permanent resident card would not be acceptable ID for notarization under any other circumstances.

Lorraine W Pereverziev

25 Apr 2017

I am having trouble with your comment that the Matricular Consular card from Mexico. According to the State of California "Notary News" issue Jan. 2017, they state "A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship, or a valid passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship..." ( There are no qualifying factors mentioned here. But because I never just "trust" what I read, I called the Secy of State and verified that there are no restrictions for using the "matricula consular" and they confirmed that no such restriction exists. I hope this is helpful information for all who are often asked to use this as a form of identification when no other form exists.

National Notary Association

25 Apr 2017

Hello, Lorraine. California Civil Code Section 1185 states that in order to accept a consular ID as proof of a signer's identity, the ID must include the bearer's photograph, signature, physical description and identifying number. You can find this information on page 8 of the 2017 CA SOS Notary Public Handbook: You are correct that if a consular ID includes all of these elements, it is acceptable as ID for a notarization. However, the most current information we have is that the specific "matricula consular" card issued by the government of Mexico lacks a physical description of the bearer, and does not meet the requirements of CA Notary law.

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