In light of the recent social distancing guidelines, parties are searching for alternative methods of doing business and closing transactions while avoiding face-to-face interaction.
In addition, you may reside outside the US and require notarization of documents by a U.S. notary. What do you do?
As a result of both of the above scenarios, the issue of electronic notarization and remote notarization has gained increasing importance. Are these alternative methods to the traditional notarization process – which typically requires signing a document in the physical presence of a notary – permitted in and outside Virginia?
The short answer is “yes” to both: (1) electronic notarization is available in Virginia, but it requires certain technological capabilities and a notary who has obtained an additional certification, and (2) a notary may remotely witness a signature in Virginia, provided certain requirements are met.
In fact, Virginia is one of only a few states that allows you to reside anywhere in world and still get your documents notarized by a Virginia e-Notary!
These are the basic requirements that must be met before you can get your documents e-notarized regardless of where you reside:
1. The person(s) or organizations requesting the notarizations agree to accept e-notarization of their documents.
2. The Remote Online Notary resides in a state – such as Virginia – that requires only the e-Notary reside in-state at the time of document notarization. You, the signer may reside anywhere as long as you can successfully provide and pass (3) and (4) below.
3. Provide valid forms of identification such as driver’s license or passport. Identifications must be current (not expired).
4. Pass KBAs: You must be able to successfully pass Knowledge-Based Authentication. These are questions that you should know and must correctly answer in order to pass the KBAs. Correctly answering these questions plus valid proof of identity sufficiently proves your identity in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Electronic Notarization (e-Notarization)
Electronic notarization, or e-notarization, is permissible in Virginia. In e-notarization, the document being notarized is itself in electronic format, such as a .pdf (and not a physical piece of paper). The notary uses a computer program to electronically “stamp” the notary’s signature and seal. This e-notarization process otherwise must meet the requirements of a traditional notary, except that the notary’s signature and seal information is affixed electronically and is not physically “stamped” on the piece of paper. This electronic stamp and signature must be unique and independently verifiable. Once electronically stamped, the document carries that notary stamp and it cannot be removed.
As a caution, however, not all notaries may perform e-notarization. A notary must first register with the Secretary of the Commonwealth and demonstrate certain technological capabilities related to electronic signatures and seals. In order to apply for an e-notarization certificate, a notary must e-sign the application using the program that the notary will use to electronically notarize documents.
An electronic notary is required to keep a record of all electronic notarization acts for five (5) years.
The e-notarization process can be used to electronically notarize a document with the signer of the document appearing either in person or by video technology (remote notarization).
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