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  • Writer's pictureBrian Klein

Ways Notaries Can Identify Signers

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

One of the most important duties for all notaries is to verify the person in front of them who is requesting notarization of their signature. What types of ID can you use to prove your identity and what if you don't have a proper ID as per what your state allows? Can I still have my signature notarized? Keep reading to learn more!

Let's review the three ways notaries identify signers:

  1. Personal knowledge of the signer by the notary

  2. Reliable identification cards and documents

  3. Use of a credible witness

Let's look at each of these in more detail and please keep in mind that acceptable IDs can vary from state to state.

Personal Knowledge

This type of identification occurs when the notary knows the identity of a person through past dealings that provide a reasonable certainty that the person has the identity they claim.

In Pennsylvania, the law does not specify how long a notary must know a person before personal knowledge can be claimed. The longer the notary knows a person and the more interactions they've shared, the more likely it will be for the notary to claim personal knowledge. In short, common sense must prevail when utilizing personal knowledge to identify a signer.

Identification Documents/ID Cards
Types of ID

You may prove your identity to a notary using a variety of documents so long as the ID or document is government issued, current and not expired. Examples of these are:

USA passport or passport card

  • Foreign passport - as long as the notary can read & understand it

  • Driver's license or a non-driver ID card issued by any U.S. state

  • Driver's license or a non-driver ID card issued by Canada or Mexico - as long as the notary can read & understand it

  • Other government issued ID such as a military ID as long as it is not expired and has a signature or photograph

Unacceptable forms of identification include:

  • Birth certificates - they do not have the person's picture or signature

  • Credit cards - not government issued

Credible Witness
credible witness can be used to identify a signer

If you are not personally known to the notary and are unable to present a valid ID card or document, you can be identified by the oath or affirmation of a credible witness.

The law in Pennsylvania requires that the credible witness be present at the time of the notarization. He or she must also be personally known to both the notary and the signer. The witness must swear or affirm the following as being true:

  • The individual requesting notarization is the person named in the document

  • The credible witness personally knows the signer

  • The witness believes it would be difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of ID

  • The signer does not possess a valid form of ID

  • The credible witness does not have a direct or a financial interest in the document the signer is requesting to have their signature notarized

Again, notary laws can vary from state to state so if you are not sure what acceptable IDs are where you live or need notarization, check with a notary first to avoid any issues or delays!


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