Frequently Asked Questions for Notary

What is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is a public servant appointed by state government to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. 

Why are documents notarized?
Documents are notarized to deter fraud and to ensure they are properly executed. An impartial witness (the Notary) identifies signers to screen out impostors and to make sure they have entered into agreements knowingly and willingly.

How does a Notary identify a signer?
Generally, the Notary will ask to see a current identification document or card with a photograph, physical description and signature. 

Which are the California-Approved Id's for notarial acts? 

California Drivers License (1) Other State Drivers License (2)

California ID Card (1)     Other State ID Card (2)

U.S. Passport (1)  Canadian Drivers License (2)

Mexican Drivers License (2)   Foreign Passport (2) and (5)

U.S. Military ID Card (2) and (3)     ID Card Issue By USCIS (2) and (6)

Inmate ID Card (2) and (4)     State, County or City Employee ID Card (2)


(1) Card most be current or issued in the past five years.

(2) Card most be current or issued in the past five years and contain a photograph, signature, physical description and a serial or identifying number.

(3) The Military's new Common Access Card (CAC) does not included a signature. Notaries may not accept is as identification.

(4) For Inmates in custody.

(5) Foreign passports must be stamped by the USCIS.

(6) USCIS ID's may be used only for notarizing USCIS forms.

(7) Employee ID cards must be issued by the State of California or a county, city and county in California

May a Notary give legal advice or prepare legal documents?
Absolutely not. A Notary is forbidden from preparing legal documents or acting as a legal advisor unless he or she is also an attorney. Violators can be prosecuted for the unauthorized practice of law, so a Notary cannot answer your legal questions or provide advice about your particular document.

Is notarization required by law?
For many documents, yes. Certain affidavits, deeds and powers of attorney may not be legally binding unless they are properly notarized. With other documents, no. Private entities and individuals may require notarization to strengthen the document and to protect it from fraud.

Does notarization make a document "true" or "legal"?
No. A notarization typically means the signer acknowledged to the Notary that he or she signed the document or vouched under oath or affirmation that the contents of the document were true.

May a Notary prepare or notarize immigration papers?
Only a few immigration forms must be notarized, such as the Affidavit of Support (1-134, I-864), but the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations state that no one may prepare or file another person''s immigration papers unless he or she is an attorney or a U.S. Department of Justice-approved "accredited representative." Notaries may provide clerical, secretarial or translating assistance with INS forms as long as they do not provide legal advice, and then may notarize these forms.

What is an "Apostille"  and who issues it?
An apostille fulfills a simple function: It assures a document receiver in another country that the Notary who performed the notarization holds a valid commission, and performed a legal notarial act that the document receiver is relying upon.

Apostilles are never issued or used by notaries.  Before an apostille can be issued, the document must be notarized. If an apostille is needed it is the signer's responsibility to get the document into the issuing agency's hands with all necessary information and fees paid.  Apostilles convey no special status or authority other than verifying the commission of a Notary.

Is a Notary the same as a Latin Notario Publico?
No. In Latin countries, the Notario Publico is a high-ranking official with considerable legal skills and training. Unlike the U.S. Notary, the Notario Publico drafts documents, provides legal advice, settles disputes and archives documents.

Can a Notary refuse to serve people?
Only if the Notary is uncertain of a signer''s identity, willingness, mental awareness, or has cause to suspect fraud. Notaries may not refuse service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer.

Where can I report unethical or unprofessional Notaries?
Any wrongdoing or illegal activity should be reported to law enforcement and the appropriate Notary-regulating state official (typically the secretary of state, governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general). 

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