Can a US notary notarize a document for foreigners?

A signer from another country asks for a notarization. The only ID he has is a passport from his country. Will the notary accept this?


With 43 million people from other countries living in the United States, there’s a good chance that notaries have encountered this circumstance. It can be challenging for a Notary to keep up with the hundreds of different types of IDs issued by state and federal government agencies. Figuring out which foreign identification documents can be accepted can be downright daunting.


The professional standard of practice would be to accept foreign IDs if issued by a government agency and include the bearer’s recent photograph, signature and physical description. But foreign IDs don’t always come with all those elements.


Foreign Passports


Foreign passports are the most commonly acceptable form of foreign identification for notarization, but state laws vary on the requirements.


One common requirement is that the passport must be stamped by USCIS. Among the states with laws allowing Notaries to accept a properly stamped passport are Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Tennessee and Wyoming.


Other states that allow foreign passports do not specify that they must be stamped. These include Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. With the exception of South Carolina and Utah, these states allow expired passports so long as the date of expiration is not more than three years before of the notarization.


Some states have more stringent requirements for foreign passports. California and Tennessee, for example, require all foreign passports to include a serial or ID number as well as a photo, physical description and signature of the holder — even if stamped by USCIS (California Notaries may accept a foreign passport without a USCIS stamp). Florida requires a foreign passport to include a serial or identifying number and to be current or if expired, issued within the past 5 years. Massachusetts requires passports to contain a signature and photograph. Oregon requires a foreign passport to be from a nation federally recognized by the United States.


In Arizona, a foreign passport may be used to identify signers for documents conveying or financing real property, and in Texas, for a deed or other document relating to a residential real estate transaction. However, neither of these states allow a foreign passport to be used for any other type of document.


Other Types of International Identification


State laws allow Notaries to accept very few other foreign IDs.


California allows driver’s licenses issued by Mexico and Canada that contain a serial number, photograph, physical description and signature. Florida also allows these driver’s licenses if the license has a serial number. In both of these states, the license does not have to be current as long as it was issued within the past five years.


In Arizona, when dealing with real estate conveyances and financing, notaries may accept any other valid, unexpired ID that is acceptable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to establish an individual’s legal presence in the United States and that is accompanied by supporting documents as required by DHS.


One type of ID that causes confusion is a consular ID issued by the consulate of a foreign country. Matricula consular cards issued by Mexican consulates are among the most common of these. They look very official and reliable — especially the newer versions — but only Notaries in Illinois and Nevada are specifically allowed to accept them. Matricula cards have been controversial because of concerns that they are vulnerable to fraud. California Notaries may accept foreign consular IDs as proof of identity under a state law that took effect January 2017 if the ID is current or issued in the past five years, has a serial or identification number, and contains the signature, photograph and description of the bearer. However, Mexican matricula consular cards may not be accepted under the California law because they lack a physical description of the bearer.


Where Guidance About IDs Is Not Provided


Many states do not mention foreign passports or foreign IDs by name in their laws, but present a list of general requirements for any IDs Notaries may accept.


If you are a Notary in one of these states, check your state’s Notary handbook or commissioning agency’s website for guidance. Click here to check the Notary Public Handbook of 50 States and DC.


For example, Georgia’s Notary Handbook lists a foreign passport duly stamped by the USCIS as an example of an ID that Notaries may accept from a signer as satisfactory evidence of identity.


If a signer has no identification at all, depending on the state notaries can still rely on one or more credible identifying witnesses regardless of citizenship or immigration status. In addition, for Notaries in Delaware and Virginia, a signer may present an alien registration card (U.S. Permanent Resident or “green” card) with a photograph.


Foreign IDs That Notaries Should Not Accept


Don’t forget that foreign IDs also are often printed in a foreign language. Unless notaries understand the language on the signer’s passport or the passport contains an English translation within it, notaries shouldn’t accept it. After all, they wouldn’t be able to verify the particulars of the signer’s identity. Of course, under no circumstances should notaries rely on a third party to translate information for them.


As the world becomes more sophisticated in dealing with identifications, more and more different types of foreign IDs are likely to be presented as satisfactory evidence. Just stick to the basics of satisfactory evidence would be a great idea.


Source: National Notary Association



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