Arizona’s New Remote Online Notarization
As Arizonans, notarization is an essential step in the filing of our most important documents. These documents include property deeds, loan approvals, professional licensing forms, and certain business agreements. Traditionally, all notarization had to be completed with an in-person notary. However, his process, like many others, has been impacted by technology. Now, notarizations can be complete through Arizona’s new remote online notary framework.
Remote online notary service was intended to begin on July 1st, 2020 but given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Doug Ducey accelerated the implementation of this framework in early April of 2020. This was needed because the continued presence of the virus in Arizona during the period between April and July rendered in-person services either impossible or an unnecessary risk for some in our community.
Under the new framework, remote online notarization allows a signer to appear before the notary using audio-visual technology. Couple this with the electronic signing of documents and the whole notarization process can be moved online. Alternatively, the notary may still observe a traditional wet signature for the purposes of notarization.
While the options for notarization have expanded, the standards and requirements to become notaries have not been altered. To perform online notarizations, the online notary still must be commissioned as a traditional notary under Arizona law. That notary must then apply and be approved under a separate statute to be permitted to perform remote online notarizations. Once approved, just like in-person notaries, the remote notary must be physically located in Arizona to perform notarization.
Further, just like in-person notaries must confirm the identities of individual signers, so must the remote online notary. There are two ways that this can be done:
- The notary verifying the signer’s identity through their own personal knowledge.
- If the notary does not have personal knowledge of the signer, then the notary can rely on the personal knowledge of a “credible witness.” A creditable witness is either an individual who the notary has personal knowledge of who then verifies the identity of the signer. Also, the notary can verify the identity of the creditable witness who then in turn uses his personal knowledge of the signer to verify his or her identity.
- If the notary or a creditable witness cannot verify a signer through personal knowledge, then the notary must verify the identity of the signer through an official credential (think a driver’s license), then verify that credential through a separate data source to verify that credential is accurate. In addition to credential verification, a signer will need to take a quiz to prove their identity. This quiz will be at least five questions and you will need to get at least 80% of the questions right. A third party will likely be used to administer this test.
This new framework was a natural outgrowth of technological advances, it has become a necessity for many during these difficult times. Moving forward, the process will only improve and online technologies are refined, and as Arizonans become accustomed to the process.