It may surprise you to learn just how common notarizing is…
…Over 4 million notaries across the United States notarize hundreds of millions of legal documents every single year.
Since the founding of this great nation, notarizations have always been done the same way. In person.
And to put it nicely, this is a pain in the ass.
But now, thanks to online notaries, you can skip this boring step and have your documents notarized from anywhere in the world.
Whether you overseas and need something notarized, or just feeling lazy and laying in bed – You can notarize any documents you want with little more than your mobile phone.
Online notaries make notarizing documents fun.
Today I am going to teach you all about online notaries. What makes them so great and why you will never use an old fashioned notary again!
You can a link below to jump to a specific section of this guide…
- What is an online notary?
- How does an online notary service work?
- Best online notary service
- Benefits of using a notary
- Negatives of using a notary
- The difference between online and electronic notarization
- What forms of Identification does an online notary accept?
…Or keep reading from top to bottom to learn everything you need to know about notarizing documents online.
What is an online notary?
An online notary, also referred to as remote notarization, allows you to notarize documents over the internet.
The purpose of a notary is to help prevent fraud when signing legal documents. A notary’s role includes:
- Verifying that the person signing a document is who they claim
- Confirm that the person signing is doing so willingly and without intimidation
- Confirm that the person understands what they are siging
- Witness the person signing the document
To put it simply, a notary provides proof that the signatures on a document were not forged.
Prior to 2012, the you had to physically visit a notary to have your documents notarized.
And, for the most part, this worked just fine.
But if you were unable to visit a notary public, say if you were traveling overseas or had an incredibly busy schedule, then you couldn’t have any legal documents notarized until you could stand in front of a notary public…
…This didn’t make sense.
You can sign and email a contract online but still need to physically visit a notary public face to face to notarize your documents.
Visiting a notary public was the bottleneck that was slowing down many document exchanges. And the industry had not changed in centuries…
…Then Virginia turned notarizing on it’s head.
In 2012, Virginia became the first state to approve notarization online, using a webcam. Montana and Texas have since followed and also authorize notaries to provide online services. Nevada is soon to follow.
Now instead of taking time out of your busy schedule to visit a notary public, you can have documents notarized from the comfort of your own home, on the bus or anywhere else in the world.
How does an online notary service work?
An online notary will run use a system that is similar to this:
1. Register your account
2. Upload the document you want notarized
3. Upload your identification
4. Have a live video call with a certified notary (similar to Skype or FaceTime)
5. The notary then confirms your identity, witnesses you electronically sign the document and, using an electronic seal, notarizes it.
6. You can now print your notarized document or share it electronically (like through email)
It really is that simple!
I used an online notary when I was traveling overseas and needed to forward my mail. The virtual mailbox I signed up for required me two forms of notarized identification.
The whole process took less than 10 minutes, all from the other side of the world. It was so easy that I would never step foot into a notary office again!
Best online Notary Services
Have some documents you need notarized? These online notary services are the best in the business:
An easy to use interface, online 24/7 and if they can’t notarize your document, then it doesn’t cost you a cent.
If you are a business looking for a go-to notary, Notarize.com also offers an impressive enterprise solution with many features not available to individual users.
- United States: $25
- International: $25
Hours of operation:
- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
While it may not have the same friendly user interface, NotaryCam can notarize multiple signers from any number of locations
Hours of operation:
- Monday – Sunday: 8am-11pm Eastern Time
- After hours: Available by appointment
- United states: $25
- International: $79
Hours of operation:
- Available by appointment
- United states: $25
- International: $75
Benefits of using an online notary
Still not convinced that an online notary is right for you?
Check out these benefits:
1. Notarize from anywhere in the world
An online notary is literally the closest notary to you. No matter where you are in the world.
Prior to online notaries, if you needed documents notarized while traveling outside of the united states, you needed to organize a meeting with a U.S Embassy or Consulate… A time consuming task.
But fortunately, times have changed.
Now, all you need is internet access and you can have your documents notarized no matter where in the world you are located. Your own personal notary, at your finger tips.
2. Have your documents notarized at any time
It’s the middle of the night and you awake in a panic because you forgot to have those important documents notarized for the morning…
…Not a problem.
Online notary services like Notarize.com have notaries available 24/7 allowing you to have your documents notarized day or night.
3. Online Notaries are affordable
Using an online notary costs as much as a regular notary. Typically you can have any document notarized for around $25.
4. Can’t be notarized online? You won’t be charged
While this does vary according to which online notary service you use, generally speaking, you will not pay a fee if your document cannot be notarized. You will only be charged a fee for a successful notarization.
5. Online Notarization is safe and secure
To prevent identity theft and fraud, notarized documents are sealed with a security certificate, which protects against tampering. The seal is unique to each online notary agent, allowing you to confirm that the notarized document is valid and the notary had the authority to offer the service.
A video record of your notarization is also kept and, with authorization, can be verify it’s authenticity at any time.
Note: At the time of writing this, only Online notaries from Virginia are required to keep video logs. Nevada and Texas have different record keeping requirements for online notaries. It is for this reason that we recommend Notarize.com, online notaries that operate out of Virginia.
The downsides of using an online notary
While online notarization services have come a long way, they are not yet perfect…
…Below are some things you need to consider before deciding if an online notary is right for you:
1. You can only notarize in English
Online notaries can only notarize a document if you can communicate directly and understand each other. You cannot use an interpreter.
At the time of writing this, all online notaries only offered their services in English – If you cannot communicate in English, you will be unable to use an online notary
But let’s be real – if you can read this guide, this won’t be an issue for you.
2. Documents that need to be signed with another person
At the time of writing this, no online notary provided a service that allowed two people to sign a document at once.
Instead, you will both have to upload an unsigned document and have them notarized separately, leaving you with two separately notified forms.
While some agencies and institutions will accept these, it also means you are paying two sets of notary fees, one for each person signing the document.
Update:Notarize.com now offers a solution for businesses that allows multiple signatories. This service is not yet available for individuals.
3. There are certain documents that online notaries will not stamp
While most documents can be notarized by an online notary, there are a few exceptions. Examples include:
- Wills, codicils and testamentary trusts
- Motor Vehicle Title transfer documents
- Odometer disclosure statements
- I-9 forms
- Certified true copies of: birth, marriage, death certificates, court-issued documents etc.
- documents for use outside of the United States
This list is not exhaustive. However, the good news is that if your online notary cannot notarize your documents, they will not charge you a fee.
4. Potential for coercion.
One of a notary’s most important jobs is to ensure that the signer of a document is signing of their own free will. Something that is easy to prove when face to face.
While there isn’t proof that has happened yet, online notarization opens up a potentially scary scenario: someone could literally have a gun to your head, off camera. The notary would never know.
However, if you are choosing to notarize a document of your own free will then this you can skip this negative.
5. No stamp of approval
Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch…
I will forever associate notarizing documents with the sound of the old-school stamp of approval. The sound is oddly satisfying and is something not present when using an online notary.
What is the difference between online notarization and electronic notarization?
There is some confusion between electronic notarization and online notarization. While they may sound similar, they are not the same.
Online Notarization: Sometimes referred to as remote notarization, is where the entire notarial act happens without meeting your notary face to face. Instead a webcam is used.
Electronic notarization: Sometimes referred to as e-notarizations, are the same as a standard notarial act except that instead of using paper, all information is entered into a computer. However, you must still meet face to face with your notary. Notaries that offer electronic notarization are referred to as an eNotary
Are Online notarizations legal?
Here’s the funny thing about online notarizations… In most states, a notary public must meet physically, face to face, when performing a notary services – a live video call (like Skype) will not be accepted.
This means that those states cannot legally offer a legitimate online notary service.
But in Virginia, as of 2012, it is legal for a notary public to perform notary services online.
Now you may be wondering:
I don’t live in Virginia, so doesn’t that make my online notarization invalid?
Online notaries rely on a technicality which makes online notarizations valid across 49 states.
It’s actually pretty clever…
…Out of state Notarizations.
At the time of writing this, 49 states, excluding Iowa, recognize out of state notarizations as long as it is made in accordance of the laws of the notarizing state.
And since online notarizations are legal and valid in Virginia, they are legal in other states too.
That said, while you can use an online notary for virtually any everyday form, contract or transaction – there are a few exceptions.
Some public agencies and court systems may impose additional requirements or limitations.
It is always best to check that the recipient will accept an electronically signed and notarized documents, just in case.
But, for the most part, documents notarized online are seen as legitimate.
Note: Iowa is the only state that has a law saying that notarization performed in other states will only be recognized if the individually appears physically before the notary. 
The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S constitution makes this possible for the remaining 49 states to accept online notaries.
It is for this reason that online notary services will not notarize documents for use in the state of Iowa.
What forms of identification does an online notary accept?
When verifying your identity to an online notary, the following forms of identification are accepted:
- State-issued driver’s license
- State-issued identification card
- U.S. Passport issued by U.S Department of State
- U.S Military ID
- State, county and local government IDs
- Permanent resident card (green card)
As you can see, the positives of using an online notary far outweigh the negatives.
If you are looking for a simple way to notarize documents from the comfort of your own home then an online notary is definitely the way to go.
Have you ever used an online notary? Was it easier than meeting a notary face to face? Let me know in the comments below!