New York Notaries Cannot Certify or Notarize Copies, But Alternative Option is Often Used
You would think getting a copy of your passport or other identification certified by a NY notary (where the notary compares the original and xerox copy and makes a statement "certifying that the copy is a true and accurate copy") would not be that difficult. But unfortunately, lawmakers have practically made it impossible. NY notaries have no authority to make such a statement. We cannot even notarize copies of something, as we need a statement that someone has written (or a lawyer has written) and is signing in front of us, to notarize it. But organizations all over the world tell people to get this done by a notary, constantly. Many organizations are probably aware that it cannot be done this way, since it is not the first time they are requesting it and getting it back in another way, but they don't take the initiative to tell you the way it is actually done.
The frequently used alternative, and legal, method in NY, and most US states, is the following: the person who owns the passport, driver's license or Con Edison bill writes and signs a statement declaring that it is a copy or true and accurate copy (whatever language they deem to be appropriate or the receiving authority requests). The notary can then notarize that statement and signature.
The statement can either be written right on the copy or on an attached page (but the notary can only stamp and sign the page that has the signer's statement and signature on it). Sometimes the receiving authority prefers that all of the notary information be on the same page as the copy of the passport or other similar document.
If the notarized copy is being sent to a foreign organization and they require an apostille, the only statement you can make about the copy is that "You affirm (or swear) that it is a photocopy of the original." You cannot say if it is a true copy or even a "copy" if you want it approved while being processed.
There is one other rather time-consuming option for a passport copy: the US State Department can certify a copy of a US passport, but it can take about 6-12 weeks. You can visit the State Department's website or contact the State Department for further details on its process. Also, some consulates in NY, such as the UK consulate, will certify copies of their own country's passports.
Notary 101 Course Needed in NY
New Yorkers need to be aware of the fundamental and mandatory requirements for getting a document notarized: being present at the notarization and having some kind of ID that includes all the names printed on the document being notarized (NY law doesn't specify that a drivers license or passport be used, but most notaries won't notarize without it). Some people send their assistant to a NY notary with their ID and the document. If the signer does make it to the notarization, they will not have any ID ("I just don't carry ID" or "it was stolen recently" are comments often heard) or the ID does not match the name printed on the document being notarized (perhaps using a maiden name instead). The main role notaries play is ensuring that the signer is indeed who he or she claims to be (and that the signer fully understands what he or she is signing). They can't do that without the person being there or ID.
Old Versions of NY Power-of-Attorney Document Cause Problems for Uninformed Consumers
Most people looking to avoid a lawyer will often download a copy of power of attorney thinking what harm could come from that. Few people are aware that two revisions of the most popular Power of Attorney form, the NY Statutory Short Form, took place in 2009 and 2010 and make previous versions invalid. The new version of the NY form, finalized in September 2010 (look for that date in the header or footer) added a required notarization by a NY notary of the person receiving the power to act for the other person and later a gift rider was added.
Consumers should also be aware that banks often have their own power-of-attorney forms that they want as well or in place of the regular form.
Due Diligence Needed
Before Handing Your Document
to Any New York Notary
A little known fact about the notary industry is that there are a large number of notaries that are quite ignorant about what is needed to properly notarize a document...including lawyers and notaries working at banks. As long as most people see the notary stamp on their document, they think everything is okay...until they present it somewhere like a consulate, county clerk, other government agency or to someone who knows what they are doing. Every day, a large number of people find out the hard way that their notary was not properly trained and that there is more to notarizing a document than stamping it. So, it is a good idea to know what is needed to avoid having your document get rejected by the receiving authority.
In addition to the notary stamp details, the critical piece of information on any notarized document is the notary statement that the notary is signing (an "acknowledgement" or a "jurat"). If your potential notary can't tell you the difference between the two or describe either one, keep looking.
The exact wording you would want for the JURAT is something similar to the following:
State of New York
County of __________ (The county where the document is being notarized...not where the notary is commissioned as many notaries believe)
Sworn to before me on this ___ day of ___________, ____.
____________________ Notary Signature
Sample of NOTARY ACKNOWLEDGMENT
State of New York
County of ________
On the ___ day of ___________ in the year ____ before me, the undersigned, personally appeared ___________________, personally known to me or proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the individual(s) whose name(s) is (are) subscribed to the within instrument and acknowledged to me that he/she/they executed the same in his/her/their capacity(ies), and that by his/her/their signature(s) on the instrument, the person(s), or the entity upon behalf of which the person(s) acted, executed the instrument.
______________________________ Notary Public
There are quite a few other important steps many notaries do not take, including printing and signing their name exactly the way it is printed on their stamp (for example, if it says James Oliver Johnson on their stamp, the notary cannot print or sign his name as James Johnson or it will get rejected by many organizations.
In addition to the jurat/acknowlegment question, you should ask your potential notary how many notarizations they have done (look for at least 300, so by then they hopefully would have been told they were doing something wrong), and whether they are certified by the National Notary Association or 123Notary.com (which gives somewhat stringent tests).
There was an article in The New York Times several years ago that reported on a NY notary association study/sting that found that a majority of notaries in NY do not know how to properly do their jobs. Nothing has been done since then to improve the situation. Other then passing a 30-question multiple-choice test to get a license, there is no followup education that provides practical, real-world applications on how to properly notarize a document. So, spend a little extra time looking for a notary who knows what he or she is doing, so you and your documents don't suffer the consequences.
Advance Planning Needed to Avoid Problems Notarizing Signers with Serious Illness
Whenever possible, it is best to get a Power of Attorney and Will completed long before the signer is in a condition where they are no longer lucid, no longer able to sign his or her name or not able to communicate to the notary what it is he or she is signing. Most people are not aware that a notary has to establish that the signer is able to fully comprehend and communicate what her or she is signing. In the case of a Power-of-Attorney, someone with bad intentions can wipe out a person's bank account. Notaries, therefore, need to establish that is the signer's intent to do so and understand the implications. Saying just "yes" or "no" or nodding is not sufficient. Notaries are also not able to notarize someone with dementia, Alzheimer's, or serious memory issues. The court or a lawyer needs to intercede when the notary can no longer communicate with the signer (either verbally or in writing) or feels the signer is no longer lucid.
Frequently Asked Notary Questions
How long does a notarization take?
For most single-page notary jobs, the actual checking of ID, notarizing and payment takes about 5-10 minutes.
What is the main purpose of a notary public?
The main purpose is to prevent fraud. Depending on the type of notary wording being used in the document, the notary public needs to either watch the signer(s) sign the document or have the signer(s) acknowledge (in person) that he or she signed the document at an earlier time AND to get valid proof of his or her identity (unless personally known by the notary). In the case of notary wording that requires the signer to swear or affirm the accuracy of a statement being made, the oath or affirmation to the notary is another important purpose.
What is an "Apostille" or "Authentication?"
When certain documents are sent to a foreign country, it may be necessary to authenticate the notary public's signature before the document will be accepted in the foreign jurisdiction. The notarized document must be brought to the County Clerk's office to authenticate that the notary's signature and seal were valid at the time of notarization and the New York Secretary of State's office then reviews the document and attaches a certificate and state seal if approved. It can take 1-3 hours to complete this process.
What do I need to bring with me?
While NY law doesn't specify what type of ID is required, most notaries will want to see a current state-issued identification with a photo (e.g. an official passport or a state-issued driver's license or state-issued identification card). Copies of IDs are not acceptable. If parts of your name are abbreviated on your license but not abbreviated on the document you are signing, you will need to bring your passport, which does not typically abbreviate names.
If you need a New York notary or apostille service, you can contact Manhattan Mobile Notary & Apostille for a mobile notary or apostille appointment at 917-693-3692 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information about this NY notary and apostille service at www.manhattanmobilenotary.com.
Certified Apostille Agent Seal
New York Notary Express provides information about the notary and apostille industry that consumers would find helpful in getting a document notarized or apostilled.