Electronic notarizations—and, more specifically, remote notarizations conducted online—are gaining popularity across the country, and legislatures in many states have enacted or are considering bills that would allow the practice.
It all started in 2011 when the state of Virginia introduced the Electronic Notaries Act. This law made e-notarizations and remote, or online, notarizations possible by enabling signers from anywhere in the world to appear live before a commissioned notary public on a screen—via Skype, Facetime, or another audio-video teleconference option—and get a document notarized.
Virginia’s standards for the electronic notarization process include three specific things:
- There must be detailed identity authentication measures that confirm a signer is who he says he is. This typically includes knowledge-based authentication, which gives personal and historical questions that the user must correctly answer, and which may be one of two or more steps in a multi-factor authentication.
- The metadata and legal evidence of the signing process must be embedded within the signed document. That stipulation automatically rules out most e-signature vendors, since metadata is typically stored on the vendor’s server.
- The document must include tamper-evident technology to ensure that any compromise of integrity in the document would be made known to the parties involved.
(Because SIGNiX meets all of these requirements, our company has become a top vendor of choice in Virginia.)
The practice of e-notarization and remote notarization in Virginia has become a pilot program of sorts for the entire country. And as adoption grows, it makes sense that more and more states are enacting laws supporting electronic and online notarizations, including the following:
- Montana became the second state to legalize online notarization in 2015. Signers must be residents of Montana and the transaction must meet specific criteria laid out in the law, which includes that the signer must be known personally to the notary or verified by a credible witness.
- Florida authorized webcam notarizations in 2015. However, the practice is limited to certain law enforcement and correctional officers who are permitted to administer oaths and affirmations.
- Nebraska passed a law to legalize remote electronic notarization and provide standards for the use of video and audio conference technology to complete notarial acts. The law is effective July 1, 2017.
- Kentucky and Minnesota are set to enact the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) to be effective on June 29 and Aug. 1, 2017, respectively, which will allow a notary to perform a notarial act using audio-video technology for a signer outside the U.S. Washington is also proposing a bill to adopt RULONA.
- Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas are each considering bills that will authorize notaries to perform electronic and online notarizations. They should go into effect Oct. 1, 2017, Nov. 1, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018, respectively. Pennsylvania has also introduced an online notarization bill.
- Washington, D.C. introduced a bill March 7, 2017 that clarifies electronic notarizations, outlines how audio-video recordings can be used and defines authentication for electronic signatures. It is currently in a congressional review period.
- Louisiana’s legislature requested that the Louisiana State Law Institute look into electronic notarizations and remote e-notarizations. The Institute’s report and recommendations were provided February 2017, and they are expected to determine the future of e-notarizations.
These state legislatures are supported in establishing rules for electronic and online notarizations by groups like the National Notary Association (NNA), which published its Model Electronic Notarization Act earlier this year.
Online notarizations are the way of the future. They take a process that has historically been cumbersome and inconvenient and make it easy and quick. Plus remote electronic notarizations are actually more secure and defensible than traditional notarizations, since they incorporate strict identity authentication measures, an audio-video recording of the entire process and tamper-evident notarized documents. Our society is used to conducting business and communicating through technology, so it makes sense that more and more people want to have documents signed and notarized electronically, and we’re excited to help drive the momentum for these state laws.