Remote Electronic Notarization

Background on Remote Electronic Notarization

The notarization process is designed to prevent fraud and forgery by having a third-party (notary public) ensure the signature on a document is authentic, and the signer knows what they are signing and does so voluntarily. Documents that typically require a notarization include healthcare directives, affidavits, powers of attorney, wills and real estate documents. While state laws on notarial acts vary, the key components of the notarization process in all states include personal appearance of the signer before the notary, and verification of the signer’s identity by the notary.

Traditionally, all notarial acts involved a paper document. However, beginning around 2000, state and federal laws authorized notaries to use an electronic signature for notarial acts. In response to these developments, a National E-Notarization Commission, endorsed by NASS, was formed to develop technology neutral standards for the secure implementation of electronic notarization. The standards, which were supported by NASS in 2006, require the notary’s electronic signature and electronic seal be capable of independent verification, and be attached to or logically associated with the electronic certificate in a way that shows evidence of any changes.   

After the national e-notarization standards were developed, a number of states enacted laws authorizing electronic notarization. Many of these laws included provisions based on the standards, including requiring physical presence before the notary in order to meet the personal appearance requirement. However, in 2011 Virginia became the first state to authorize remote electronic notarization (remote e-notarization), followed by Montana in 2015 and Nevada and Texas in 2017.  Under these new laws, the personal appearance requirement for notarial acts could be met through the use of audio/video technology (such as a webcam), with the notary and signer in different geographic locations.

As additional states began introducing legislation on remote notarization, Secretaries of State requested NASS form a Remote E-Notarization Task Force to examine the relevant issues and technology. In 2018, based on recommendations from the Task Force, NASS adopted revised national e-notarization standards to include standards for remote e-notarization. The revised standards were designed to reflect existing state laws and model acts on remote e-notarization, as well as input from Task Force members and stakeholders.

In addition to expanding the definition of personal appearance to include audio-video communication, the revised standards require multiple means of verifying the signer’s identity (e.g. Knowledge Based Authentication and credential analysis), as well as measures to ensure the security and privacy of the audio-video communication.

It is important to note NASS’ adoption of the national e-notarization standards is not an endorsement of either e-notarization or remote e-notarization. NASS does not have a position on this issue. The standards are intended as guidelines for states to consider if they choose to implement one or both of these methods. In 2020, NASS reauthorized a Resolution Affirming the Role of the Secretary of State or Other State Notary Commissioning Entity as Sole Authority to Establish Standards for New Forms of Notarization.

Current Status of Remote Notarization

Of the 38 states that authorize some form e-notarization, 33 of these states currently have a law that allows for remote e-notarization (see list below). Approximately half of these states have developed rules or regulations, while others are in the process of doing so. Many of the state laws and regulations on remote e-notarization reflect the updated national e-notarization standards, though the specific requirements and procedures vary among states.   

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, several states have issued emergency orders, guidance, or regulations temporarily authorizing the use of remote e-notarization (see list below). Some of these states have existing laws that will take effect in the coming months. Currently 47 states and Washington D.C. authorize remote e-notarization either through an existing law, or emergency action.  

Bipartisan legislation has also been introduced in the House and Senate (S 1265/HR 3962) that would authorize notaries nationwide to perform electronic and remote notarization (see NASS summary). 

Additionally, several states that do not currently authorize remote e-notarization have issued guidance or information on notarization during the COVID-19 crisis, including California.

State Laws Authorizing Remote e-Notarization (updated 9/22/21)

Alabama (2021)
Alaska (2020)
Arkansas (2021)
Arizona (2019) 
  - administrative rules
Colorado (2020)
Florida (2019)
  - administrative rules
Hawaii (2021)
Idaho (2019)
  - administrative rules
Illinois (effective Jan. 2022/July 2022)
Indiana  (2018)
Iowa (2019)
  - draft administrative rules
Kansas  (effective 1/1/22)
Kentucky (2019)
Louisiana (effective 2/1/22)
Maine (effective 2021)
Maryland (2019) 
Michigan (2018)  
  - executive (emergency) order on remote notarization requirements
Minnesota (2018)
Missouri (2020) 
Montana (2019)
  - administrative rules
Nebraska (2019) 
Nevada (2017)
  - administrative rules
New Hampshire (effective 2/6/22)
New Jersey (effective Oct. 2021/July 2022)
New Mexico (effective 1/1/22)
New York (awaiting action by Governor)
North Dakota (2019)
  - guidance
Ohio (2019)
  - administrative rules
Oklahoma (2020)
  - administrative rules
Oregon (2021)
Pennsylvania (2020)
South Dakota (2019)
Tennessee (2018)
 - administrative rules; executive (emergency) order on remote notarization requirements
Texas (2017)
  - administrative rules; executive order temporarily expanding remote notarial acts 
Utah (2019)
  - administrative rules
Virginia (2011)
  - standards
Vermont (2019)
emergency rule; guidance on emergency rule
Washington (2019)
West Virginia (2021)
Wisconsin (2020) 
Wyoming (2021)

Emergency Orders/Actions Authorizing Remote e-Notarization (updated 9/22/21)

District of Columbia (order extended through November 2021)
Georgia1 (order extended through state of emergency)
Illinois  (order effective through state of emergency)
   - Secretary of State Emergency Guidance
Louisiana  (order extended through 9/29/21)
Massachusetts (law extended through 12/15/21)
Mississippi (order effective through state of emergency)
  - Secretary of State Guidance
New Hampshire (order effective through state of emergency)
New Jersey (order effective through state of emergency)
New Mexico (order effective through state of emergency)
North Carolina (law extended through 12/31/21)
Rhode Island (order effective through state of emergency)
  - Secretary of State Temporary Guidance and Updated Standards of Conduct

1  For licensed attorneys

Resources
NASS Notary Public Administrators (NPA) Section
NASS eNotarization Implementation Guide (2017)
Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
ULC Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (2018)

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