FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
• What is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is a person legally empowered to witness and certify the signing of documents and to take affidavits and depositions. The Notary's primary purpose is to minimize fraud in legal transactions.
Originating in ancient Rome, Notaries became prevalent in America when the colonies began to trade actively with Europe.
In California, a Notary Public is commissioned by and is responsible to the Secretary of State and, ultimately, the people of California.
• How do I get a document notarized?
To have your signature notarized, you must present sufficient evidence to prove your identity and sign the necessary document in the presence of a Notary Public. The Notary completes the process by stamping, dating, and signing the document. This face-to-face procedure helps ensure the authenticity of the signature. In some cases, the Notary will need to take a sworn statement from you as well.
• How do I prove my identity?
Proof of identity is typically established using a valid driver's license or passport. Credible witnesses can be used in the rare case that a valid form of identification cannot be supplied.
• Can a Notary refuse to serve someone?
Only if the Notary is uncertain of a signer's identity, willingness, mental awareness, or has cause to suspect fraud. Notaries may not refuse service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer.
• Can a Notary Public prepare or review a legal document for me?
No. A Notary Public cannot practice law unless he or she happens to be an attorney. A Notary is not even allowed to tell you what type of notarization a document requires -- this must be specified by the creator of the document.
• What is an Apostille?
An Apostille is a certificate issued by the U.S. State Department or the Secretary of State (in this case for California) that proves the authenticity of the signature of a federal, state, or county official or the signature and seal of a Notary Public. An Apostille is typically attached to a notarized document as proof of authentication when that document is being sent to another country that abides by the Hague Convention.
• Can a Notary prepare or notarize immigration papers?
Only a few immigration forms must be notarized, such as the Affidavit of Support (1-134, I-864). A Notary can notarize these forms but the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations state that no one may prepare or file another person's immigration papers unless he or she is an attorney or a U.S. Department of Justice-approved "accredited representative." Notaries may provide clerical, secretarial or translating assistance with INS forms as long as they do not provide legal advice, and then may notarize these forms.
• What Is a Notary Signing Agent?
A Notary Signing Agent is a Notary specifically trained to handle the signing of mortgage documents.