Notary Dilemmas: ID & Immigrant Status
With immigration having been a hot topic throughout the past election season, it seems that every day a new story is breaking, attempting to expose yet one more aspect of the issue. Recently, two stories broke with notary questions and an undocumented immigrant connection. The stories made outrageous claims. Is there any truth to them? Let's explore the facts to determine if the stories were just politically biased fodder with no basis in truth or if there is something important to be learned.
Who Do You Serve?
The National Notary Association published a bulletin in response to the dilemma that a notary public has an immigrant client, documented or otherwise, or a foreign visitor who is one of the intended signatories on a notarized document. Is this allowed? To answer this question first consider the title of your position, Notary Public. Your role is to be a public servant. The general public you serve is not defined as only the American public. It is then expected that if a foreign client requires your services that you should perform your duty.
The only time service would be denied is if a client is unable to produce legally required identification. Where an undocumented individual is concerned, although they may not have legal documents with regard to their immigration status, they may very well have the necessary identification to satisfy the requirements of a notary public. Their immigration status documents are not the concern of a Notary Public. They simply need proof that they are who they claim to be.
The most common form of identification is a state issued driver's license. Currently, in the United States, 12 individual states, as well as the District of Columbia, issue driver's licenses to all qualified drivers including undocumented immigrants. Therefore it is quite possible that an undocumented immigrant will be able to meet the identification requirements to satisfy a notary public in order to receive their services.
The American Society of Notaries provides a list, although certainly not comprehensive, of prohibited actions by a notary public. It indicates that it is only prohibited to notarize a document for someone who lacks proper identification to prove who they are. The purpose of the identification is to verify they are the person named on the document, not to prove their immigration status. It would stand to reason that it is perfectly legal for a notary public to notarize a document for an undocumented person provided they offer the necessary form of identification that authenticates that they are who they say they are.
Are There Really Licensed Undocumented Immigrant Notaries?
Another riveting story broke with regard to North Carolina. The media agency known as The Daily Caller accused North Carolina's government officials of licensing undocumented immigrants as notaries public. Considered a journalistic agent of the Conservative movement in the U.S., such a story should be further scrutinized for accuracy rather than taken at face value.
The story reports that the Secretary of State for North Carolina confirmed that a notary public could be granted a license if they satisfied U.S. residency requirements with a work permit under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The reporter argues that this is an error, that such status does not meet North Carolina's legal requirement that a notary public "reside legally in the United States". The reporter asserts that DACA does not confer a legal residency status. The article cites the terms "prosecutorial discretion" as the condition of DACA applied by the Department of Homeland Security, thus it is not a conferred lawful status of residency. To understand the implications of complicated legal terminology, let's start with North Carolina notary public residency law.
Understanding The Legal Terminology
According to the website of the North Carolina Department of Secretary of State, item 3 of the "Qualifications to Become a North Carolina Notary Public" clearly states that a person must reside legally in the U.S. It does not require citizenship status, only that they are here legally. It does not even specify residency status. A person could be an asylum seeker or refugee with an undetermined status but legally residing within the country.
All North Carolina requires, then, is proof that a person is living in the country legally. Does DACA satisfy this requirement? The Department of Homeland Security explains that:
- The status means that removal actions are deferred because an individual's situation is considered low priority.
- Individuals, in most cases, are adults who came to the country as children under the authority of their parents, thus their responsibility and accountability for their status is questionable and a low priority for deportation prosecution.
- Individuals that qualify are current students, graduates, GED recipients or honorably discharged military or Coast Guard veterans with no criminal record.
Although DACA does not grant citizenship or resident alien status, it creates a status that qualifies individuals for legal employment due to economic necessity and their right to legally reside in the country. The status must be reviewed and renewed every two years.
It would seem that North Carolina is within the bounds of integrity with regard to licensing individuals with a DACA status. DACA establishes a status for a person to legally live and work in the U.S. Although it is defined differently than a resident alien status or a work visa status, it still creates a status of legal physical residency in the country with authorization for employment.
Immigration Status is Irrelevant
In short, the good news is that a notary public does not have to be bothered with immigration politics. Serving the public means serving all who have the proper identification document that proves who they are, there immigration status is irrelevant. And notaries public everywhere can be confident that their peers are legally qualified to bear their notary public seal even if this country was not their place of birth and they have not yet acquired citizenship. When it comes to understanding the responsibilities of a notary public it is important to always use a reliable source for information or fact check anything that causes concern.