Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of states have authorized remote online notarizations in order to limit face-to-face interactions. Currently, many of the remote notarizations, permitted in over 40 states, are performed on an emergency or temporary basis.

With social distancing in place, states recognize the benefit of using remote notarization. It was first used for legislation providing electronic commerce and e-notarization involving electronic document signing on electronic devices, like smartphones, while the notary and the signer were together in the same room. Now with the pandemic, the signers and notaries often aren’t even in the same location. Instead, they communicate using video or audio conferencing.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t security protocols still in place to verify the identity of the signer; some of the security measures taken include:

  • Showing a driver’s license or passport
  • Asking knowledge-based authentication questions
  • Biometrics, such as facial identity, fingerprint, or eye scan

Most states have also adopted legislation that now defines an electronic signature as an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by the person who is signing the record. This covers all types of electronic signatures, including:

  • A click-through “I accept or reject” action
  • The signer’s typewritten name or other string of characters
  • A digitized signature pad and a stylus, a video clip, a sound clip, or a digital signature or certificate

All the normal information for the notary that’s required on the seal or written on the notarial certificate must also be attached or logically associated with the electronic signature or record.

How does this work in practice? One online notary company does the following:

  • The signer registers on the site and uploads the documents
  • The signer then verifies his/her identity by answering questions that only he/she could know and presents a government-issued photo ID
  • The signer and notary are connected via a live video call
  • The notary reconfirms the signer’s ID and watches as they electronically sign the document
  • The notary signs the document and places the seal, then makes it available to download
  • The company records the entire process in case there are questions regarding the notarization later

Pandemic precautions have proven that remote online notarizations aren’t just a concept – they’ve become a reality. Are remote online notarizations here to stay? With the convenience it offers, it’s easy to see why they have broad support. Depending on your state laws, the notary could be anywhere in the United States – or even a different country. The next time you need a document notarized, check to see whether a remote notary is an option.

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