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What is Interstate Recognition and Why Does It Matter for Notaries?

The United States is one country, but not all states see eye to eye on the laws affecting businesses and citizens. There could be fifty (or fifty-one if we’re counting the territory of Puerto Rico) different rules or interpretations of those rules guiding the work of various professionals, including notaries.  

What a notary is allowed to do in one state may be illegal in another. 

One surprising fact is that only a handful of notaries are allowed to perform marriage ceremonies. So does that mean that those marriages aren’t legal in other states? Absolutely not, thanks to interstate recognition of notarial acts. 


What is interstate recognition? 

Interstate recognition is the promise states make to each other to legally honor the documented transactions and official notarial acts performed in accordance with the originating state’s laws. All fifty states have statutory provisions outlining the recognition and acceptance of either all notarial acts or acknowledgments and jurats specifically. 

Here’s what the California provisions (Code § 1182 and §1189) say: 

The proof or acknowledgment of an instrument may be made without this state, but within the United States, and within the jurisdiction of the officer, before… a notary public. 

Any certificate of acknowledgment taken in another place shall be sufficient in this state if it is taken in accordance with the laws of the place where the acknowledgment is made.

So if you want to get married in Florida, a commissioned public notary can officiate as long as all the state laws are followed. 


Contested deed notarized by a woman

In 1912, only six states had granted women the right to hold public offices, including serving as a notary public. That year, a deed notarized by a Texas woman was contested in North Carolina’s Supreme Court. One of the objections to the acknowledgment was a woman’s name appeared on the notary seal. In response, the court stated, “…whether man or woman, we think it entirely safe to hold that, having been entrusted by the state of Texas with a notarial seal and having acted and professed to act in that state as a notary public, it will be assumed that she was rightfully appointed to that office and that she acted rightfully in taking this probate until the contrary is made to appear.” 

A case in the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 1918 also documents similar arguments to invalidate a lien claim based on the sex of the notary. The court determined that the claim was properly verified because there was no proof that the notary was a woman. 

In both cases, the courts deferred to the integrity of the state’s laws where the notarial act was performed. Well-established interstate recognition statutes played a vital role in upholding the validity of the documents. 


The New Frontier of Remote Online Notarization

As we move further into the 21st century, remote online notarization (RON) is the latest shock to the traditional notary system. Right now, 30 states have passed permanent RON laws, but some states are adamantly opposed to adopting the new technology. 

California is probably the most notorious long holdout against RON. While notaries in that state are banned from using it, the Secretary of State issued a clear statement that RON-certified notaries in other states are allowed to notarize documents for California citizens. 

The statement reads: 

“California Law does not currently provide the authority for California Notaries Public to perform a remote online notarization. The personal appearance of the document signer is required before the notary public. However, California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can obtain notarial services in another state that currently provides remote online notarization. California Civil Code 1189(b) provides that any certificate of acknowledgment taken in another place shall be sufficient in this state if it is taken in accordance with the law of the place where the acknowledgment is made.”

The statement refers to the California statute on interstate recognition. 


The SECURE Act creates a uniform RON law

While more than half of the states have approved RON, how and when to use it is still a major point of confusion for many notary professionals and consumers. Although interstate recognition provides a framework for assuring the validity of notarial acts performed in other states according to their laws, many professionals want a stronger guarantee. 

The SECURE Notarization Act was reintroduced to Congress this session. The bill would create minimum universal standards for RON use in the United States, but it doesn’t stop states from setting additional safeguards or requirements. 

Organizations representing settlement agents and mortgage professionals like the American Land Title Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association strongly support the bill to streamline the use of RON in real estate transactions. Lenders especially enjoy the legal certainty gained from universal laws affecting their security interest in real property.

For notaries, there are lots of reasons to offer remote online notarization. Right now, only those working in states with explicit approval can take part. Interstate recognition affirms the validity of notarial acts executed via RON and provides an opportunity for a few lucky notaries to increase their customer reach far beyond their state lines.

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Amanda Farrell

Amanda Farrell is a digital media strategist at PropLogix. She enjoys being a part of a team that gives peace of mind to consumers while making one of the biggest purchases of their lives. She lives in Sarasota with her bunny, Buster, and enjoys painting, playing guitar and mandolin, and yoga.