Remote Online Notarization: How Is it Different from Traditional and Electronic Notarization?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing guidelines have prevented or strictly limited the opportunities people can be together. This has had a tremendous impact on the notary industry, which traditionally has relied on face-to-face interactions. Fortunately, notaries have been able to adapt by conducting remote online notarizations (RONs).

RONs are a relatively new development, but the pandemic has brought their use to the forefront. However, RONs have not entirely overtaken traditional noarizations. Eventually, the pandemic will subside, so it is important to understand the differences among the three types of notarizations.

Traditional Notarization

Traditional notarizations are conducted in person. This means that the signer and the notary are in the same room. Additionally, all of the documents are on paper and not in digital format. The notary first identifies the signer. The signer then signs the documents, and lastly the notary performs the notarial act and places his or her notary stamp on the document.

Electronic Notarization (e-notarization)

For electronic notarizations, the signer and notary must also meet in person. However, the similarity ends there because in e-notarizations, all of the documents are in digital form. During the notarization, both parties sit in front of a computer to review the documents. The notary, as with a paper notarization, identifies the signer by reviewing his or her identification card and ensures that the signer understands the content of the document. The notary will then instruct the signer to electronically sign it, either with a computer mouse or a signing tablet. The notary will then place his or her electronic signature and notary stamp on the document. However, please be aware that a title company may require some important documents to be signed with a pen. It also should be noted that some states require notaries to obtain an e-notary commission in order to conduct e-notarizations.

Remote Online Notarization (RONS)

Unlike with traditional and electronic notarizations, in RONs the signer and notary do not meet in person. Instead, each sits in front of a computer at different locations to conduct the notarization by video using a third-party technology platform. The process begins when the notary uses a third-party identity-proofing application to identify the signer. Once this is done, the signer and notary join the notary session. They must be able to see and hear each other clearly, and the notary must record the whole notarial act and save it for up to ten years, depending on the state. After the signer electronically signs the document, the notary uses a digital certificate to sign and place his or her official electronic signature and notary stamp on the document.

Several states have fully authorized RONs including Texas, Nevada, Florida, Montana, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Please note that in almost all states that allow RON, a notary is required to apply for an online notary commission. Some states may also require you to take a notary educational course.

The use of remote online notarizations will likely become more prevalent across the country in the foreseeable future. While no one knows how long the pandemic will last, what is certain is that there will always be demand for notarizations, and RONs provide notaries a safe and secure way to serve their customers.

-- By Evelin Garcia, a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries, Inc.

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