How to notarize a document online

It has become incredibly difficult to notarize a document in person over the past five months. Thousands of locations that formerly offered notary services have shut down to the public due to the pandemic. Many individuals who used to perform the service are stuck working from home. This process has caused states and companies to take a second look at online notary services. These services are effective at ensuring the identity of an individual involved while also allowing for social distancing and the efficient notarizing of documents.

What can you notarize?

Individuals can notarize a document in many subfields through an online notary process. The documents involved include any document allowed by a state or municipality to be notarized through the online system. The idea of remote notaries vastly expands the number of documents that can be notarized over those that are allowed through an electronic notary. Some states have been wary about many electronic notary companies because they do not offer the same level of security and protection.

But with remote notaries, a notary can notarize a document and directly verify the identity of an individual. He or she can see another person and use visual verification to match that person's image on a webcam with their ID. As a result, more than half of all states allow individuals to notarize every document from a legal edict to a child support verification online. Even more states passed emergency orders over the past few months allowing for legal remote notaries from services such as Onenotary. These measures were mainly passed because practically every institution that offered notary services had been shut down from public access.

How does it work?

Remote notaries work by attempting to replicate as many of the aspects of in-person notarizing as possible. There is a synchronous element to the process. This concept means that the notary and the person wanting their document notarized will both do their parts at the same time. There is also a webcam involved. The webcam is present to allow the notary to ensure that a person's face matches the image on their identification. In most instances, a person goes through a preliminary set of questions on a software dashboard. Once these questions are answered in a satisfactory way, they line up a notary for an appointment. At the time of the appointment, a person answers more questions to verify their identity. If those questions are answered accurately, the notary appears opposite of the person on the webcam.

What is the law?

The law in over half of all states is that online notary usage is allowed for the vast majority of notarized documents. Laws vary on a number of factors. Each state has slightly different laws about how online notaries verify the identity of individuals. They may have more documents that can be electronically notarized. Electronic notaries have to go through slightly less effort than remote notaries to get documents approved. For remote notaries, there is an established process determined by each state to determine identity.

In Virginia, for instance, there are a set number of questions that an individual has to answer in a brief period of time. Correct answers then go alongside the uploaded identification and the visual confirmation in order to meet the requirements for the online notary. There are also laws that are subject to change based on pandemic updates. Many states were in the middle of setting up online notary services when the pandemic hit. Those states passed emergency laws that allowed the service to start right away. Some identity verification systems will therefore be modified and tightened over the next few months. There is the possibility that services may even be temporarily taken offline as they are improved and finalized.


Anyone who is looking at an online notary service needs to study the laws of their state and the nature of their document. They need to figure out whether or not the notary service would be legal in the first place. Then, they must decide a time and procedure for a professional to notarize a document remotely. This process involves working with a trusted partner to ensure that all laws and rules are properly followed with an online notary service.

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