The most basic task of the notary public, which underlies all other processes and procedures, is to identify properly the signer of a document.
The validity of the notarization hangs on whether or not the person who signed is actually the person who is named in a document. Hence, proper identification is key, and the notary must verify identities in accordance with strict rules and guidelines. When a client comes to a notary who practices on a regular basis, one will observe that everyone does not necessarily have the most commonly accepted forms of ID, such as a state-issued driver’s license or a U.S. passport. As time goes on, and our country continues to be a melting pot, a notary will increasingly be approached by clients who do not have the most common ID documents. As a responsible notary, it is up to you to become knowledgeable about the proper and acceptable identification documents.
An acceptable identification document must contain the following elements: a photo, a signature, and a traceable identification number issued by a federal, state, or local governing body. The most common identification documents that provide these elements are state-issued driver’s licenses or non-driver’s IDs, U.S. or foreign passports, permanent resident cards, armed services military ID cards, and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) documents, which include such items as US Travel Document I-327 and American Indian Card I-872. Please note that not all of the above documents have expiration dates. For those that do, some states will stipulate how old the document may be before it becomes invalid (for example, a driver’s license within two years of its expiration date and a passport on its expiration date). Notaries should become familiar with the specific statutes regarding identification documents in their own states.
One form of identification not accepted in most states is an ID badge issued by a university. While many of these badges contain a photo and identification number, often they do not contain a signature. Even if the notarization is taking place on the college campus and being performed by a university employee for another university employee, the employee badge would not be considered a valid form of identification for the purposes of notarization. Most states require a local, state, or federal government-issued identification document for properly verifying identity. Notarization statutes prevail regardless of when or where the notarization is taking place; the rules can never be modified or bent no matter what the circumstance.
Also, many transit systems issue passes which contain a photo and number; the number identifies a person. While this pass has validity in the transit system, it will not be accepted for purposes of notarization.
Notaries, whenever possible, should let their clients know beforehand that they will need to produce a form of identification from the above list. This will prevent disappointment and inconvenience to the client who finds that the item they want to use for identification is not acceptable. If a signer does not have acceptable ID, the notary should refuse to notarize.
Clients on the other hand should ask their notary what form of identification they need to avoid inconveniences.
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