Notarizing for Signers who Cover their Faces

As a public officer, a notary cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or religion. However, unintentional discrimination may arise when a woman who covers her face for religious reasons requests your notarial services. When this circumstance occurs, a notary must always act with the utmost caution to ensure that he or she does not discriminate but also follows the law. For this reason, notaries should always consult their own state's laws on matters concerning identification of persons with covered faces.

You must always ensure that the signer appearing before you is the person described on the identification presented. If this person's face is visible on his or her driver license photo, you must be able to see it to positively ID the individual. You may explain that the law requires you to confirm visually that this person matches the identification he or she provides. If signers are ever uncomfortable with showing their face to you, you may want to suggest that they seek the services of a notary they personally know.

If the identification depicts the signer with a covered face, the notary must still confirm the identity of the signer. The notary should be able to reasonably conclude that the person appearing before him or her is the person who is named in the document requiring notarization. If the notary is uncomfortable with this transaction, the notary could politely tell the parties that he or she isn't able to proceed due to a lack of positive identification.

To protect yourself, you should follow best notary practices, such as making a detailed entry in your record book that outlines the reasons you declined to notarize the document. This will help you jog your memory if you are ever questioned about this notarization.

As always, be sure to consult your state's notary laws or notary commissioning authority for specific information pertinent to your state regarding notarizing for signers with covered faces.

By Robert T. Koehler, a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries, Inc.

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