Online or webcam notarization is a concept that can bring up many doubts, especially about virtually identifying a signer that is miles away. In contrast to the traditional, pen-and-paper notarization, the notary public must physically verify the signer’s identity and witness them signing the documents.
In Remote Online Notarization (RON,) audio and visual technology are used to complete the process. But RON is different from IPEN or in-person electronic notarization, where the notary and signer meet face-to-face.
The signer can be identified through a combination of remote ID presentation, credential analysis, and knowledge-based authentication (KBA).
The signer presents a photo identification card, such as a valid driver’s license or passport, on the web camera. The credentials are validated using complex algorithms and artificial intelligence.
The next step is identity proofing, where the signers answer dynamically-generated questions regarding their data available on public records and other authorized sources.
If the signer cannot pass this KBA step, the remote notarization will not go through. Foreign citizens may lack a Social Security number, so KBA is not ideal for identifying them. Besides, a notary can only perform notarization of foreign language documents only if they can read and understand it.
The state of California doesn’t allow remote online notarization.
Instead, the Secretary of State recommends using a mobile notary, especially with the current COVID situation. As the signers cannot appear before the notary, the mobile notary public visits the client’s place.
Clients can also make use of remote notaries of other states, as California recognizes out-of-state notarizations. But that particular state has to permit remote notarization.
While many states have modified their stance on RON during the COVID-19 pandemic, California has not. Since 2011, 23 U.S. states have passed remote online notarization legislation.
Per the California Civil Code 1189(b), notaries may not perform remote notarization, but this may change in the future.
Senate Bill 1322 or the Remote Online Notarization Act was first introduced in February 2020. The bill is referred to the California State Senate Judiciary Committee and is now pending.
If passed, the bill will allow online notaries public in California to take part in remote notarization acts through electronic media, such as audio-video communication technology.
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