Notary Home Study Course


CHAPTER 5

PROPER IDENTIFICATION

Part 1
Satisfactory Evidence for Proving Identity

As you now know, identity must be proven to the notary for acknowledgments and jurats. There are four basic means of proving identity:

  • Personal Knowledge
  • Proven identity through proper identification documents
  • Credible witness or witnesses 
  • Subscribing Witness

This, of course assumes that the you, the notary do not have any evidence or reason to believe that the person requesting the notarization is not the person he or she claims to be. In other words, if you know that someone is committing signature forgery, you obviously may not notarize the document.

Personal Knowledge
One way to identify someone is through personal knowledge but be careful that you truly know that person and have known him or her for a long while. Notarizing the signature of someone you only met a few days or even months ago on the basis of personal knowledge is not wise as that person may not really be who they have claimed to be. When in doubt, always rely on proven evidence.  

Proven identity through proper identification documents
Assuming the notary does not have personal knowledge of the one requesting notarial services, the notary may satisfy the identification requirement by accepting one to the following:

  • An identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles which is current or has been issued within the past 5 years.

  • A passport issued by the Department of State of the United States which is current or has been issued within the past 5 years.

  • The use of any one of the following, as long as the document is current or has been issued within five years and it contains a photograph and description of the person named on it, signed by the person, and MUST bear a serial or other identifying number.  If the document is a foreign passport, it must be stamped by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. (The USCIS stamp is adequate to meet this requirement).

      • A passport issued by a foreign government.

      • A driver’s license issued by a state other than California or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue drivers’ licenses.

      • An identification card issued by a state other than California.

      • An identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States.

      •  An inmate identification card issued on or after January 1, 1988, by the Department of Corrections, if the inmate is in custody. (Not an ID bracelet)

You should never accept an international driver’s license as proof of identification. While there are legitimate international driver’s licenses, these can also be obtained through the internet with no verification of identity.  Also, you should note that social security cards cannot be used since they do not meet the above listed criteria nor should credit cards be used even if they do have a picture of the person. It is important to again reiterate that a signer’s identity document must contain at least as much information as contained in the signature. For example, when notarizing the signature, John Smith, Jr., the “Jr.” must also appear on the identity document. The identity document can contain more information as the signature, but never less. If someone signs the document as Mary Ann Smith and her driver’s license only has Mary Smith, you must use an alternate form of identification that has her name in the form of Mary Ann Smith. Similarly, John W. Jones, II must have an identity document with at least John W. Jones, II.