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What Is An Acceptable ID for Notarization?

Notaries are confronted with improper identification documents all the time. Signers are often misinformed or just don’t care when it comes to showing an ID to get their document notarized.  Although the laws are different in every state, a notary always has to “properly” identify a signer before they can notarize a signer’s document.  It is the basic premise of what a notary does – certify the identity of the signer of a particular document.  And  though each state’s laws differ, most states specifically indicate what is and what is not an acceptable form of identification.


In California, for example the Secretary of State publishes a very strict and specific list of allowed forms of  identification. Included are the standard forms that most people are aware of such as drivers licenses, state ID cards or U.S. Passports, but there are also some that are less obvious.  An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody or an employee identification card issued by an agency or office of the State of California, or an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California.  These are less used and seen, but are still acceptable.  But what about when a person shows a social security card issued by the Social Security Administration, or a credit card by a well entrusted financial institution with a current photograph.  Although they both seem like a reasonable form of identification, neither is allowed to be used by a notary in the State.


People will show many different types of what they think are legitimate forms of ID, but knowing what is acceptable or not for a notarization can be the difference between a legal act or a fraudulent one, punishable by fines or revocation of a notary’s commission.  Signers can get very pushy if they don’t get what they want.  Hostility and rudeness often comes to the forefront of a stituation when dealing with someone trying to use an improper identification.  Simply telling a signer that an ID is not acceptable is not good enough.  Having a state handbook with the current laws available is sometimes the only way to convince an uninformed signer that the ID card they are trying to use is not valid for notarization.  No matter the circumstance it is the notary’s responsibility to hold their ground and not give in to a signers demands.  A notary may be the last line of defense against fraud and must strictly ahere to the law to avoid activity that is illegal or potentially  damaging to another person.


But holding one’s ground may necessitate extreme tact and professionalism when dealing with a combative signer.  If a signer becomes hostile when an ID is refused, be respectful and try and still be helpful.  Note the acceptable forms of identification and offer to have them return at a later time.  If no other form is available or the signer is under a time constraint, offer another option, like a credible identifying witness if your state allows.  Offering to contact one of the national organizations for notaries public  or governement agency their document is for can be helpful.  Remember, as a public official, a notary is a servant to the state and must do everything reasonable in their power to assist.



  • California Driver’s License
  • California Indentificaiton Card
  • Out Of State Driver’s License
  • Out Of State Identification Card
  • Canadian Driver’s License
  • Mexican Driver’s License
  • U.S. Passport
  • Foreign Passport(Stamped by USCIS)
  • U.S. Military ID Card
  • Inmate ID Card

*All of the ID’s listed above must contain a photograph, a physical description, a signature and a serial or identification #