Notarizing Online for Non-U.S. Citizens Located in Foreign Countries


Today, the AAN enlightens members and readers regarding a proposed amendment to the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts that, if adopted by any state in the United States, may jeopardize the security of this country and create an environment that will encourage fraudulent acts around the globe.

The amendment entitled “Individual Located in Foreign State” will encourage the premature arrival of a new type of online notarial act: notarizing signatures of signers in foreign countries via audio/video conferencing technology. In the newest version of the amendment, signers can be non-U.S. Citizens and the U.S. notary conducting the notarization may have to rely on a trusted person located in the foreign country to identify the signer.

To voice our concerns, the AAN has maintained a presence in recent meetings of the Uniform Law Commissioners’ (ULCs’) committee overseeing discussions of a proposed amendment to the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA).

RULONA and the ULC

The Uniform Law Commission is a state-supported non-profit organization. Its legal experts create model laws for various legal matters and U.S. state legislatures may adopt such laws, if needed.

RULONA is the ULC’s proposed model for notary laws. As currently written, RULONA is an excellent notary law model that includes the physical presence, proper identification, and other requirements of notarization. Notably, only six states have adopted RULONA.

Proposed Amendment is Undesirable

Originally, the proposed amendment’s purpose was to allow U.S. citizens in foreign countries to receive remote notarial services from U.S. notaries using audio/video conferencing. We first reported our opposition to the proposed RULONA amendment in an article that detailed the AAN’s remote notarization concerns and described a meeting that was held last spring.

The amendment’s scope has changed, however, making it even more undesirable. The newest version of the amendment would update RULONA to include notarizing for non-U.S. citizens abroad. In other words, if a notary located in a U.S. state that has adopted RULONA as its law is contacted by an individual located in a foreign country (for example, North Korea), the notary would be able to perform the notarization remotely using audio/video technology, even if the individual was not a U.S. citizen.

Reasons the AAN Opposes the Amendment

Naturally, an individual known by the U.S. government to be a foreign terrorist cannot go to a U.S. consulate to have documents notarized, but this amendment could enable him to have documents notarized by a U.S. notary online. Fake identification is obtained easily in some countries, and a terrorist could convince a “trusted third party” to identify him as John Smith for the online notary.

Citizens committing crimes and hiding in other countries will also be able to transact business. Furthermore, such laws may make it easier for drug dealers to open bank accounts in which to hide money in the U.S. Numerous types of fraudulent acts could be permitted through this kind of notarization.

Even a report from the Whitehouse touches on the AAN’s concerns and describes that transnational organized crime threatens national security. The AAN believes that the proposed amendment would strengthen criminal network activity in the United States and this amendment to RULONA will create a perfect environment for a landslide of transnational crime.

Who will police these problems? And, will notaries find themselves being called to testify in federal courts when it occurs? These questions remain to be answered.

Lenders Are Not in Favor of Remote Notarial Acts

Some notaries have said they believe that lenders were promoting remote notarial acts to reduce costs connected with signing agents. You may be surprised to learn this doesn’t appear to be the case.

The AAN has been contacted for help in fighting remote notary laws by a large lender association that isn’t in favor of remote notarial acts. The lender association’s president told the AAN that the association could support a remote notarization bill only if the bill said specifically that mortgage-related notarizations could not be performed using remote technology. Their concern is that a large portion of mortgage transactions require the original signatures of borrowers on some documents.

Also, in an October 2015 meeting attended by the AAN, a lender’s representative from a well-known bank said that when the foundational purpose of a notarization is removed from mortgage and real estate transactions, a notarization is no longer what the financial sector considers a notarization. Additionally, if the requirements of physical presence, identifying the signer, and ensuring that the signer is competent and not signing under duress are removed, what is the purpose of having a notary?

Remote Notarization Supporters

Lenders are the dominating leaders in both domestic and international commerce. If they aren’t promoting remote notarization, who is?

It appears that domestic and transnational remote notarization laws receive heavy support by technology providers. The AAN also believes that technology providers also support laws that require states that don’t allow remote notary activities to accept remote notarial acts from other states that do.

The AAN’s president, Kal Tabbara, attended a meeting in Chicago on December 12, 2015 during which a representative of the U.S. government indicated that there are over 200,000 notarizations performed overseas by U.S. Consulates without a problem. This means that approximately $20,000,000 or more in revenue could be captured by technology companies.

AAN’s Continuing Opposition

The AAN will participate in another meeting on March 29, 2016 to state our opposition and these concerns. Watch for updates in our newsletters and on our Facebook page.

More Reading

If you are interested in learning more about RULONA, the proposed amendment, and the ULC’s activities relating to this matter, visit the following links:

ULC Memo: Purposes of the Amendment

ULC Page: Committee on Notarial Acts

ULC Proposed Amendment: Individuals Located in Foreign States

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Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.

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