Updated 10-24-17. Identifying signers is a primary — and vitally important — responsibility of every Notary. Many of you will rely on some form of ID in order to properly identify them. But determining if an ID is acceptable can be a challenge.
Given the wide variety of IDs in the world, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across an unfamiliar ID at some point.
So how do you decide if it is acceptable? That depends on where you are commissioned. Guidelines can vary greatly from state to state, so you will need to be familiar with the ID requirements for your state. These guidelines will determine how much judgment or discretion a Notary must exercise in accepting or refusing an ID, as we shall see.
Some States Have Lists Of Acceptable IDs
Some states — such as California, Florida and Pennsylvania — provide specific lists of acceptable IDs. In these states, if the ID is not on the list, it is not acceptable.
California permits Notaries to accept the following forms of identification:
- A California driver’s license or nondriver’s ID
- A U.S. passport (or passport card)
- An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation if the inmate is in prison or any form of inmate identification issued by a sheriff’s department if the inmate is in custody in a local detention facility
- A driver’s license or official nondriver’s ID issued by a U.S. state
- A Canadian or Mexican driver’s license issued by an appropriate public agency
- A U.S. military ID
- A valid foreign passport from the applicant’s country of citizenship
- An employee ID issued by an agency or office of a California city, county, or city and county
- An identification card issued by a federally-recognized tribal government
- A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicant’s country of citizenship that meets specific requirements. (Note: Matricula consular cards issued by the government of Mexico do not meet California’s statutory requirements.)
- The oath or affirmation of one or two credible witnesses
Any of the identification documents listed above must be current or issued within the past five years in order to be accepted by California Notaries. Additional California Notary ID requirements are available in the “Identification” section of the state’s official 2017 Notary Public Handbook.
In Florida, the list of acceptable IDs includes:
- A driver’s license or ID card issued by any state or U.S. territory
- A U.S. passport issued by the U.S. Department of State
- A Foreign passport if stamped by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- A Driver’s license officially issued in Mexico or Canada
- A U.S. military ID
- A Permanent resident card, or “green card,” issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Pennsylvania’s new Notary laws effective October 26 updated the state’s ID rules. Pennsylvania Notaries may now accept the following types of ID:
- A passport, driver’s license or government-issued nondriver identification card, which is current and unexpired.
- Another form of government identification issued to an individual, which: (a) is current; (b) contains the signature or a photograph of the individual; and (c) is satisfactory to the notarial officer.
If you live in one of these states, simply rely on the list. You don’t have to exercise much judgment, if any, in deciding whether or not to accept an ID.
Other States Set Standards For Acceptable ID
A number of states — such as Illinois and Colorado — prescribe specific elements or information an acceptable ID must have.
Notaries in these states must exercise some judgment in determining whether or not to accept an ID presented for notarization. As long as the ID meets the specific guidelines, a Notary may accept it. For example, Colorado requires an ID to be a current identification card or document issued by a federal or state governmental entity containing a photograph and signature of the individual who is so named (CRS 12-55-110).
States That Don’t Offer Guidance
Finally, a number of states — such as Kansas, Minnesota and New York — have laws that offer little to no guidance about acceptable IDs.
For Notaries in these states, the NNA recommends that you follow The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility best practice of requesting a reliable ID that contains at least a photograph (see Standard III-B-1). A “reliable” ID would be issued by a government agency and be unexpired at the time it is presented. The decision of whether or not to accept an ID in these states is left completely to the judgment of the Notary.
Expired Or Suspicious IDs
Signers often produce expired IDs. But that doesn’t automatically mean you cannot accept it. Again, it depends on where you are commissioned.
Notaries in Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and West Virginia, which have enacted the Revised Uniform Law On Notarial Acts (RULONA), may accept an ID up to three years after it has expired.
More than a dozen states, including Arizona, Illinois and Virginia, specifically stipulate that IDs must be “current” or “valid” at the time of notarization; in these states, expired IDs are not allowed. This is a solid guideline to follow if you live in a state that does not specifically spell out what to do in the case of an expired signer ID.
Finally, if you are presented with an unreliable or suspicious ID, the best action you can take is to have your signer provide an alternative form of ID, or use a different method to identify your signer, such as a credible witness or personal knowledge, depending on your state laws.