woman using laptop
February 14, 2024 - 06:46pm

How Online Notary Services Affect California Notaries

Online notary services claim that E-notary service is approved for all 50 U.S. states. For people who might be house-bound or live in a rural area lacking in notary public services, this is a vital service made much more convenient. Documents can be uploaded and identity verified within a matter of minutes. Notarized documents are then available online and can be shared electronically. How do online notary public services affect California notaries?

E-Notary Service & California Law

California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, issued a public service announcement regarding online notary service with regard to California law. He made it very clear that the use of webcam services to perform online notarizations is an invalid and illegal activity. California law requires a person-to-person encounter for notary public service. A webcam does not meet the requirement of California law that requires a personal, physical appearance before a notary public.

Why All The Confusion?

Because of a Virginia state law that passed four years ago and similar measures in other states, much confusion has arisen as E-notary services have increased their presence online. This is due to a marketing scheme that includes very clever wording. By stating that online notary service is valid in all 50 states, many California notaries are wondering if they can provide online services. The answer is no.

In 2012 the Commonwealth of Virginia Senate Bill 827 and House Bill 2318 authorized the notaries public of the State of Virginia to notarize documents electronically for the entire nation's population. What the wording of the marketing scheme is not explaining to the general public at first glance is that the mandate in place affecting all 50 states is a state mandate in Virginia. Any E-notary service that occurs within a state that has passed a similar measure has created their own services authorizing online notary services for customers who originate in any of the U.S.'s fifty states.

As For California

Technically speaking, California notaries public are authorized to perform electronic notarizations. The stickler is that the same requirements for an in-person service must be met for a digital service. What exactly are those requirements?

  1. Personal appearance before a California notary public.
  2. Proper identification.
  3. Use of a notary public seal.

It is easy to see how online services could be created to meet the conditions of #2 and #3. However, according to California state law, a live webcam image is not a substitute for the personal appearance requirement of #1.

Advice From California Secretary of State

Secretary of State Padilla opens his public service announcement with the words:

"California notaries public should beware of misleading information..."

What he is specifically referring to are the numerous private companies with websites inviting notaries to register and begin offering their services. For California notaries who participate, this is a certain path to losing your commission.

Alternatives To E-Notary Services

The primary driver behind making notary public services online is convenience. Again and again reviews and comments of users of E-notary services mention the convenience of not having to leave the home or office. They appreciate not needing to make a trip during their own work hours to meet a notary public at their local bank. To remain competitive in an industry that is going digital, an alternative for California notaries public is to go mobile.

The flexibility of meeting clients according to their own needs can satisfy the personal appearance requirement while providing the client with the convenience they prefer. The best place to market would be online, the very medium where prospective clients will be searching for a convenient E-notary service.


In addition to the concept of flexibility in how a California notary serves the needs of the public, is the concept of fluidity. It is important to stay current on market trends as well as new laws. Never forget to verify any new notary practice with a reliable source that will provide information for how it specifically relates to California notary public law. What may be legal in one state might not be legal in the state where you are commissioned. But with the fluidity of how rapidly things can change, what might not be allowed today could become permissible tomorrow.