Notary publics are state-licensed individuals who serve as impartial witnesses to the signing of important documents to deter fraud. Most state laws required notarizations to take place in-person and use “wet ink”, but COVID-19 shutdowns and social distancing made this difficult or unsafe.
Remote Online Notarization (“RON”) is a popular process where a state-licensed notary public is permitted to notarize a document remotely through electronic signature, identity verification, audio-visual, electronic notarial journal, and record keeping technologies.
A tremendous RON advantage is participants are not required to be physically present in the same location -- the entire process is completed remotely via a computer or mobile device.
Today, over 40 U.S. states have adopted permanent or temporary RON legislation due to its efficiencies. According to technology firm DocuSign, benefits include:
- Convenience and increased access: RON makes notarization accessible to people who lack adequate transportation, live in remote areas, work non-traditional schedules or have health issues hindering mobility.
- Fraud minimization: RON’s identity-proofing technologies increase signer authentication beyond in-person notarization.
- Identity verification: Signers are required to present a government-issued ID to the camera on their device. RON confirms the ID's visual, physical, and cryptographic security features, providing an even more sophisticated process than in-person reviews by a notary without relevant experience in this area.
- Knowledge-based authentication: In many states, in addition to identity verification, signers must correctly answer personal background questions verified from a third-party database.
RON’s security features to verify authenticity of a signed and notarized document include:
- Tamper-evident seal: An automatically generated digital seal allows authorities to determine whether a RON-notarized document has been altered.
- Robust audit trail: The creation of an electronic journal and audio-visual recordings acts as evidence of a completed notarial act.
In most states with RON legislation, the signer may be located anywhere within the U.S. or even internationally, conditioned on the transaction being overseen by a notary in any state with active legislation in compliance with the state laws where the notary is commissioned.
“Electronic” or “Remote” Notarizations: Similar, But Not the Same
There are other innovations to digitally notarize documents, but not all methods provide the same level of security as RON:
- IPEN – In-person electronic notarization: Though similar to RON, IPEN involves an electronic signature and notarization, but these transactions do not take place remotely and require the notary to be in the same location as the signer.
- RIN – Remote ink-signed notarization: Unlike IPEN above, RIN does not require the notary and the signer to be in the same location, but the signer must sign a physical paper document, which the notary witnesses and records via audio-visual technology. The signer then mails the document to the notary to be authorized who then sends to the appropriate party.
NEI looks forward to RON being adopted permanently across all U.S. states. It is a great example of a crisis-driven innovation – and a win-win for all parties.