Certifying a copy, or copy certification, is the process of vouching for the validity of a photocopy of an original document. The process is typically carried out by a notary, and there are laws that govern where and what copies can be certified.
Know the Laws of Your State
The laws of copy certification vary by state. Research the laws specific to your state before performing copy certifications. Some states, such as Alabama and North Carolina, do not permit notaries to certify copies. Notaries in Florida and Delaware cannot certify copies of vital records such as death, birth, and marriage certificates.
Certification of copies of certain immigration documents is illegal. Making copies of such documents carries jail time whether you are a certified notary or not. This is one reason why it is so important to know about the local laws.
California limits notaries to only certifying powers of attorney. Maryland and Hawaii will only allow notaries to make and certify copies of their notarial journal entries. Virginia law prohibits the copying or certification of documents that were issued by the court.
Most of the laws regarding the certification of copies limit the type of documents that can be certified. West Virginia and Colorado, however, take things a step further. They require that notaries receive a signed request from the requester before any documents can be notarized.
The written and signed request must include specific details about the requested document. It must clearly state that the certified copy is lawful and that a certified copy could not be obtained through a recorder or other official holder of public documents. The notary must also retain a copy of the copy and keep it with the written request for the copy to be notarized.
An Alternative to Copy Certification
Although notaries cannot certify copies in certain states, they can notarize a signed statement by a person who vouches for the document’s validity. For this process to be valid, the notary is presented with the signer’s attestation statement, a photocopy of the document that you want to certify, and a notarial certificate. The notary cannot suggest this alternative to the signer; it must be requested by the signer.
How to Do a Copy Certification
The process of certifying copies is fairly simple once you are certain that you are abiding by your state’s laws.
- The custodian of the original document approaches the notary and requests a copy certification.
- The notary then compares the copy and the original to confirm that the two documents are identical.
- The notary certifies that the copy is an accurate reproduction of the original and attaches a notarial certificate confirming this.
Copy certification only certifies that the copy is an identical reproduction of the original. A notary who is certifying a copy does not vouch for the validity of the original. The notary can only attest that the copy and the original are identical.
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