Frequently Asked Questions About Virginia Electronic Notarization
What is an electronic notarization (e-notarization)?
Electronic notarization is a process whereby a notary affixes an electronic notary signature and seal information to an electronic document (such as a PDF or Word document). Once affixed to the electronic document, the document is rendered tamper evident such that unauthorized attempts to alter the document will be evident to relying parties. The Electronic Notary also must keep an electronic register of each act performed. (See Am I required to keep an electronic register of my electronic notarial acts? below.)
An Electronic Notary may electronically notarize a document in person or online using audio-video conference technology.
What is an electronic document?
We use electronic documents every day in business and personal affairs. Most of us are familiar with popular electronic document formats such as PDF or Microsoft Word, but an electronic document can also take the form of any electronic data in computer-readable form, such as an email message, a web page or an electronic image.
What is an electronic signature?
Most persons use some type of electronic signature every day. For example, when we click a “Submit” button to purchase a product online, we are signing electronically. Technically speaking, an electronic signature is a symbol or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document. Other examples of common electronic signatures take the form of an “I accept” button on a web site agreement or a physical signature on an electronic signature pad, commonly used at retail stores when paying for products.
Sometimes the term “digital signature” is used interchangeably with “electronic signature.” A digital signature, however, is really just a type of electronic signature. Digital signatures involve public and private key encryption that is used to secure an electronic document or electronic message from unauthorized tampering.
What is an electronic notary signature and seal?
In traditional paper notarization, a notary signs a notarial certificate with a pen and affixes a seal in the form of a rubber stamp or embosser. The seal conveys important information about the notary such that relying parties can know, for example, the name of the notary, the notary’s commission expiration date and other pertinent facts.
An electronic notary’s signature and seal performs that same basic function, but the notary can adopt any form of electronic signature that conforms to the definition stated above - the form of the notary’s typewritten name or an image of the electronic notary’s handwritten signature.
The notary’s electronic seal is simply text that appears on an electronic document and that must include, at minimum, the notary’s name as it appears on his commission, the notary’s jurisdiction (i.e., the Commonwealth of Virginia), the notary’s registration number, and the notary’s commission expiration date; the date the notarial act was performed and the county or city and state in which it was performed.
What is the difference between an electronic notarization and my current pen and paper notarization?
The only real difference is the tool used to perform the notarial act. In a traditional paper notarization, a pen and a rubber stamp are the tools of the notary’s trade. For an electronic notarization, the notary must use a computer and appropriate computer software and/or hardware.
Generally speaking all other steps and procedures of notarization remain the same. The signer appears before the notary to request a notarization, and the notary identifies the signer, completes a notarial certificate and affixes the electronic notary signature and seal.
What other equipment will I need in order to electronically notarize documents?
There may be other equipment such as a signature pad, scanning capability or other software and hardware from an electronic notary solution provider.
Is personal appearance required in an electronic notary act?
No. An Electronic Notary may electronically notarize a document in the physical presence of the signer, however an approved Virginia Electronic Notary may alternately perform acts online using audio-video conference technology (Webcam).
Can an electronic notary take an acknowledgment online by audio/video conferencing?
Yes. An approved Virginia Electronic Notary may perform notarial acts online using audio-video conference technology.
Can an electronic notary take an acknowledgment by phone or fax?
What are the electronic notarial acts a Virginia electronic notary is authorized to perform?
The following types of notarial acts may be performed electronically:
Administer oaths and affirmations (e.g., jurats);
Certify affidavits or depositions;
Certify “true copies” of documents;
Perform a verification of fact.
Must an electronic register of electronic notarial acts be kept by the notary?
A notary performing electronic notarial acts shall keep, maintain, protect, and provide for lawful inspection an electronic record of notarial acts that contains at least the following for each notarial act performed:
It is a requirement of law that every electronic notary shall take reasonable steps to ensure the integrity, security, and authenticity of electronic notarizations, maintain a backup for his electronic record of notarial acts, and ensure protection of such backup records from unauthorized use.
The electronic record of an electronic notarial act must be maintained for a period of at least five years from the date the notarial act was performed and recorded in the notary’s electronic register.