Vital Records: Birth, Death And Marriage Certificates
As a general rule, Notaries cannot certify copies of birth, death or marriage certificates because these documents are vital records — public records that cannot be certified by a Notary Public. In the United States, an original vital record is kept by the appropriate public record office, which is normally the only authority allowed to issue certified copies of the vital record. In fact, states including Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas and Texas explicitly prohibit Notaries from certifying copies of vital records though they permit certifying copies of other types of documents. California Notaries may only certify copies of powers of attorney, or copies of the Notary's own journal entries if requested by the Secretary of State or a court.
Can Copies Of “Recordable Documents” Be Copy Certified?
A trickier issue is certifying copies of recordable documents — that is, a document that may be filed with an official agency. Whether you may certify a copy of such a document depends on your states notary laws.
Some states, including Arizona and Texas, prohibit certifying copies of any recordable documents. Georgia prohibits copy certification for publicly recordable documents, such as divorce decrees and university transcripts. Delaware goes a step further and prohibits its Notaries from certifying copies of any official or public records.
If your state prohibits certifying copies of recordable documents, it’s important to know it doesn’t matter whether the copy is actually going to be recorded or not — if the original document is potentially recordable at a public records office, you can’t certify the copy.
Certifying Copies Of Driver’s Licenses, Passports And Other Forms Of ID
While not strictly public records, sometimes Notaries are asked to certify copies of official identification documents such as driver’s licenses or passports. Again, this depends on your state.
Florida and Massachusetts permit certifying copies of U.S. passports or driver’s licenses. Georgia allows copy certification of a U.S. passport but requires the passport holder to provide an affidavit. Mississippi prohibits Notaries from certifying copies of driver’s licenses or passports unless the Notary is an employee of the government agency that issued the ID. And some states such as Illinois do not permit Notaries to certify copies of any documents.
If you are asked to certify a copy of an unusual document and aren’t sure if it’s permissible, always check your state requirements first, or contact your state Notary regulating office. National Notary Association NNA members can also contact the Notary Hotline for assistance.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.