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3 Facts California Notaries Should Know For Identifying Signers

CA-license-art-resized.jpgUpdated 10-22-18. When it comes to signer ID requirements for a notarization, few states are as strict as California. 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]:

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

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

C. 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)

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

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

F. A U.S. military ID*

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

H. An employee ID issued by an agency or office of the state of California or a California city, county, or city and county*

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

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

K. 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 5 years in order to be accepted by California Notaries. IDs listed above marked with an asterisk (*) must also contain an identifying number and the photograph, signature and physical description of the bearer. For additional information, please see the “Identification” section of the state’s official 2018 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 5 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




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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

24 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.

Jan Peck

01 May 2017

Rena, it's true that passport cards do not have a signature ... and USA passports do not have a physical description. These two items plus # 3 above are the only exceptions to the law that photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number are required.


02 May 2017

Hi, I'm in California and I have a representative from the bank coming to our office to sign over 100 lost titles. Each one needs to be notarized for the DMV. When recording this in my notary book does the representative need to sign my book 100 times as well or is there a way to use a few entries and note that there are almost 100 more just like it?

National Notary Association

04 May 2017

Hello. In the 2017 official state "Notary Newsletter," page 4, the Secretary of State clarifies that every notarial act must have a separate, complete entry in the journal: "By law, as a notary public you are required to chronicle your notarial events each and every time." You can read the full newsletter here:

ash raheja

29 Oct 2018

If someone is unable to sign on a POWER OF ATTORNEY document due to Autism or disease like that , can I use their finger print as signature along with one or two family member as witness ?? Please advise. Thank you.

National Notary Association

30 Oct 2018

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.

Jennifer Gutuerrez

04 Mar 2019

On your website under tips and tutorials it shows that a permanent resident card is an acceptable firm of ID. Is it really for California? It wasn’t in the past but not sure if it’s changed recently?

Jennifer Gutuerrez

04 Mar 2019

Hi Jennifer, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We've updated the page to clarify that a permanent resident card is not acceptable in all states.


01 May 2019

Can an ID receipt from the dmv be used? I lost my ID & am still waiting to receive it but need to get a letter notarized to let my daughter travel. I dont have any other form of Id

National Notary Association

02 May 2019

Hello Angie. If you are located in California, then no, you may not use an ID receipt from the DMV as a form of identification. You can find a list of acceptable forms of signer ID in California here: If you lack any other form of ID, another option is to use credible identifying witnesses who know you personally and can vouch for your identity to the Notary. You can find more about credible witness requirements here:


03 Jun 2019

Where can I find security clearances notary in Orange County. Please help and advise. Thank you.

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2019

Hello. We apologize, but can you please clarify what you mean by a "security clearances notary?"


07 Aug 2019

Does California allow a Notary to notarize a copy of a Birth Certificate written in Spanish, stating that the copy is an exact match of the original Birth Certificate,

National Notary Association

08 Aug 2019

Hello. No, California Notaries may not certify copies of birth certificates.


20 Aug 2019

Is there other states in USA that do allow a permanent resident card to be used as acceptable ID?

National Notary Association

23 Aug 2019

Hello. Notary laws regarding acceptable ID vary widely between states. Are you interested in information about particular states?


26 Aug 2019

Can you please send me the link or the website where I can verify the states that I want to check for ID requirements? This way I can check on the states that I am interested in knowing. Thank you.

National Notary Association

27 Aug 2019

Hello. Information on each state's Notary laws can be found here:

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