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How do you identify signers for a remote online notarization?


Updated 4-20-21. When it comes to remote online notarization (RON), there is one question Notaries ask more than any other: How do you identify a signer who can be hundreds or even thousands of miles away while the notarization takes place? The answer depends on your state's laws — and the technology platform being used to perform the notarization.

Can traditional identification be used for RON?

Many states that have permanent RON statutes and rules allow Notaries to identify a remote document signer using two traditional methods of identification used in paper notarizations and one new method unique to RON. These methods are personal knowledge, a credible witness, or a multi-part identity verification process.

Some states such as Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada and Virginia allow Notaries to use personal knowledge to identify a signer during a remote online notarization. Kentucky and Michigan also allow a RON signer to be identified by a credible identifying witness. In Michigan, the credible witness must personally know both the Notary and the signer (MCL 55.285[6]).

While personal knowledge and a credible witness may be used to verify the identity of a signer for a RON in many states, these states typically do not allow a signer to produce the third, most-used type of traditional identification in paper notarizations: a single identification card or credential. Instead of allowing the signer to be identified by simply showing their driver's license or passport, these states require the signer to pass a multi-part identity verification process. In some states, this is called "identity proofing."

RON identification process

Since most experts believe it is inherently insecure to allow a signer to be identified for a RON merely by flashing an identification card on camera, many states have devised an alternative process to verify a signer's identity that is aimed mitigating the risk of imposters standing in during a remote notarization. Some states that permit RONs require the signer to successfully pass all three of the steps described below while others require a minimum of two.

Remote ID presentation

For a remote ID presentation, the signer must show an identification document to the Notary on camera so the Notary can read the information on the ID. The ID presented to the Notary must meet state law requirements — for example, Florida law states that the signer must remotely present a government issued identification credential to the Notary (FS 117.265[4]). Remote ID presentation mirrors the traditional means of a signer showing their ID to the Notary for a paper notarization, but as we will see the process doesn't stop there.

Credential analysis

For a credential analysis, the RON technology platform will use an automated process with sophisticated algorithms to verify the security elements and information on the ID presented by the signer during remote ID presentation. The Notary will request the signer to allow the system to take a picture of the signer's ID and transfer the image for credential analysis. If all information and security elements are present, the ID will pass. The credential analysis must comply with state standards — for example, in Texas any credential process used by a Notary for RON must be approved by the Secretary of State's office (GC 406.101[1] and 1 TAC 87.1[2]). Before you choose a RON provider, you should confirm their system meets your state's RON requirements.

Knowledge-based authentication

Knowledge-based authentication (KBA) requires the signer to answer a series of computer-generated questions based on the signer's personal history, credit and financial information. These are questions only the signer reasonably could be expected to know. For example, the signer might be asked to identify among 5 choices their mortgage balance at the end of last month or an address where they have lived.

The signer must correctly answer a certain number of these questions in order to be positively identified. For example, in Utah, a signer requesting a RON must correctly answer a minimum of 4 out of 5 KBA questions (80%) in under 2 minutes. Each question must have at least 5 possible answers (UAC R623-100-5[C]). If the signer fails the first test, the signer may retake the KBA twice within 48 hours, and each of the retakes must replace 2 of the 5 questions in the previous exam. If the signer fails the second retake, the Notary must not perform the RON.

Emergency RON ID requirements

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have temporary, emergency remote notarization rules with identification requirements in effect that may be different from the ones described in this article. If you are commissioned in one of these states, be sure to follow all emergency rules that are contained in your state's temporary order. Also remember that most of these emergency rules will be cancelled once the pandemic emergency is over.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

Related Articles:

Answers to urgent questions Notaries are asking about remote online notarization

Remote Notarization: What you need to know

The state of remote online notarization

Additional Resources:

NNA Remote Online Notary Resources


Add your comment


15 Apr 2020

not suer


27 Apr 2020

"For example, the signer might be asked to identify among 5 choices their mortgage balance at the end of last month or an address where they have lived." I don't know about you, but when I get my bills and statements, I pay them then file and forget--and I don't use auto pay. As for addresses, I can't remember a single one except my current address. If those are examples of KBA questions, RON notaries are in for bumpy roads!

18 May 2020

I am searching for 3rd party provider, and found a great list from this website and somehow lost it...can you please redirect me to the list you have. It contained docusign and docverify and several others that I do not recall. I would love to review that.

National Notary Association

20 May 2020

Hello. A partial list of RON technology providers can be found here:


09 Oct 2020

I’m 19, an orphan and soon to be homeless. I’ve lost everything when I lost my parents. I don’t have my official birth certificate, social security card or anything. I am currently in WA and was born in CA, I am requesting a birth certificate from CA and they need a notary signature. I can’t get a signature without an ID so I’m stuck and close to suicide because it’s just bullshit. No one has ever helped me or pointed me in the right direction as to where and what I need to do to get my papers so I can get a job and provide for myself.

National Notary Association

12 Oct 2020

Hello. Washington state Notaries can accept one of the 3 following types of identification from signers: 1. A passport, driver’s license, or government-issued nondriver identification card, which is current or expired not more than three years before performance of the notarial act 2. Another form of government identification issued to an individual, which is current or expired not more than three years before performance of the notarial act, contains the signature or a photograph of the individual, and is satisfactory to the officer 3. A credible witness who can identify you. The credible witness must also personally know the Notary and be able to provide proof of the witness' own identity as described above. If you're unable to meet any of these requirements, another option would be to contact a Notary who knows you well enough personally to identify you through the Notary's personal knowledge without the need for presentation of an identification document on your part.

Henry Meyers

06 Apr 2022

Great Article

Henry Meyers

06 Apr 2022

Thanks for the info

Karen s

10 Apr 2024

What are the identification rules for RON in Pennsylvania?

National Notary Association

12 Apr 2024

“A notary public located in this Commonwealth may perform a notarial act facilitated by communication technology for a remotely located individual if … [t]he notary public: ”(i) has personal knowledge under section 307(a) (relating to identification of individual) of the identity of the individual; ”(ii) has satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remotely located individual by oath or affirmation from a credible witness appearing before the notary public under section 307(b)(2) or under this section; or ”(iii) is able to reasonably identify the individual by at least two different types of identity proofing processes or services” (57 Pa.C.S. 306.1[b][1]). “'Identity proofing.' A process or service by which a third person provides a notary public with a means to verify the identity of a remotely located individual by a review of personal information from public or private data sources” (57 Pa.C.S. 306.1[i])

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