Is a University ID Acceptable When Notarizing Documents?

The most basic task of the notary public, which underlies all other processes and procedures, is to identify properly the signer of a document.

The validity of the notarization hangs on whether or not the person who signed is actually the person who is named in a document. Hence, proper identification is key, and the notary must verify identities in accordance with strict rules and guidelines. If you are a notary who practices on a regular basis, you will observe that everyone does not necessarily have the most commonly accepted forms of ID, such as a state-issued driver's license or a U.S. passport. As time goes on, and our country continues to be a melting pot, you will increasingly be approached by clients who do not have the most common ID documents. As a responsible notary, it is up to you to become knowledgeable about the proper and acceptable identification documents.

An acceptable identification document must contain the following elements: a photo, a signature, and a traceable identification number issued by a federal, state or local governing body. The most common identification documents that provide these elements are state-issued driver's licenses or non-driver's IDs, U.S. or foreign passports, permanent resident cards, armed services military ID cards, and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) documents, which include such items as US Travel Document I-327 and American Indian Card I-872. Please note that not all of the above documents have expiration dates. For those that do, some states will stipulate how old the document may be before it becomes invalid (for example, a driver's license within two years of its expiration date and a passport on its expiration date). Notaries should become familiar with the specific statutes regarding identification documents in their own states.

What happens when a signer doesn't have one of the above-listed cards? For instance, what if an employee from a state university only possesses the employee ID badge issued by the university? While many of these badges contain a photo and identification number, often they do not contain a signature. Even if the notarization is taking place on the college campus and being performed by a university employee for another university employee, the employee badge would not be considered a valid form of identification for the purposes of notarization. Most states require a local, state or federal government-issued identification document for properly verifying identity. Notarization statutes prevail regardless of when or where the notarization is taking place; the rules can never be modified or bent no matter what the circumstance. Many transit systems issue passes to their employees which contain a photo and number; the number actually identifies the worker and is placed on their paychecks each pay period. While this pass has validity in the transit system, it will not be accepted for purposes of notarization. Notaries, whenever possible, should let their clients know beforehand that they will need to produce a form of identification from the above list. This will prevent disappointment and inconvenience to the client who finds that the item they want to use for identification is not acceptable. If a signer does not have acceptable ID, the notary should refuse to notarize.

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss, or consequential loss, out of or in connection with the use of the information contained on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

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