Online Notarization for Non-U.S. citizens abroad

posted in: General, Rants & Raves | 0

virginia_SealI am a notary within the confines of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I follow various Notarization topics with some interest.  A few years back, there was a proposed amendment to the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA).  This amendment, in its current modified state, would allow an abroad, Non-U.S. Citizen to contact a U.S. based notary and request a notarial act using remote audio/video technology.  The American Association of Notaries  (AAN) opposes this amendment.

For more history on this, I refer you to a survey dated 9/26/2009 from the U.S. Lawyers Abroad Committee.  In the survey, there are several lawyers who indicate a need for such service in remote areas abroad.  I do not question the need for service.  But there are methods already in place, they are called embassies and consulates.  I support the AANs efforts to stop this bill.  The reasons stated by the AAN are:

  • An individual known by the U.S. Government cannot utilize services found in a U.S. consulate.  The use of remote technology in areas where fake identifications are easily produced, and hard to detect, is undesirable.  In addition, a terrorist could convince a trusted third party to identify him for the notary.
  • Citizens who have committed crimes and have seeked refuge in foreign lands would be able to conduct business.  This act would open the doors for various types of fraudulent activity.  The National Security Council has stated that transnational organized crime poses a significant threat to our security.

What surprised me is that the banks do not support this amendment either.  Common sense dictates that this amendment would reduce costs for the banks, but surprisingly the banks still do not support it.  The drive behind the amendment appears to be the technology companies, who stand to gain a large revenue stream (in the area of $20 Million) which is currently out of their reach.  Of the roughly 200,000 notarial acts performed by U.S. consulates worldwide last year, there were no reported problems.

Currently only six states have enacted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA). Virginia is not one of them.  The AAN does not support RULONA as it stands now and provides recommendations while also pointing out the acts shortcomings.  The National Notary Association (NNA) supports passage of RULONA.  There are real concerns with providing remote Notarial Acts.  Several issues were raised In a memo by the Uniform Law Commission pertaining to various aspects of updating RULONA.

While some may take their duties lightly; not I.  I am entrusted by the Commonwealth of Virginia to perform my due diligence when notarizing a signature, a duty I do not take lightly. I serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.  A notary acts as an official, unbiased witness to the identity and signature of the person coming before the notary.  The number one rule is to be certain that the person appearing before the notary is who that person claims to be.  Generally speaking, a notary is restricted to the state in which they are commissioned in. Please see the Handbook for Virginia Notaries Public for more detailed information.  One of the privileges I have as a notary in Virginia: I am not required to perform the notarial act.  What I mean is, if for any reason I suspect the individual is not who they claim to be, or I have reservations (that little hair in the back of your neck) about the notarial act, I will not sign.  Although the Commonwealth of Virginia does not require a journal.  I keep one, both for my protection, and yours.

I am currently looking into Electronic notarization (which is different from the remote notarization above).  There are two reasons why I want to pursue this:

  1. All electronic notarial acts performed by Virginia electronic notaries are deemed to have been performed within the Commonwealth of Virginia and are governed by Virginia law.
  2. Virginia electronic notaries also have limited extraterritorial powers. An electronic notary public may perform any authorized notarial act outside of the Commonwealth for any writing intended to be used in the Commonwealth of Virginia or by the United States government.

I enjoy being a notary, and I no longer seek to become a signing agent; it’s just not worth the hassle of “getting in.”  If you reside within the Commonwealth of Virginia, and need a notary (other than real estate transactions) , feel free to contact me.

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