The world is getting vaccinated and starting to get back to the pre-covid days. People are rejoining the physical workplace and getting back to their usual day-to-day routines. All sorts of government operations and tasks are also being carried out physically instead of remotely. However, the scene was completely different a few months ago, especially with government offices.
While private organizations found it less difficult to settle on the work-from-home situation, most government employees had it rough. That was especially true for people and organizations working on notarization. Given how complex the verification process is, online notarizing poses a lot of problems. Hence, the concerned authorities are continuously bringing new updates to the virtual notarization process to make the experience more comfortable.
That being said, let us look at how the notarization process is being carried out virtually.
Not the Same As Electronic Notarization
Electronic notarization or eNotarization is the process of signing the documents electronically by an official notary. However, the signer needs to be physically present before the notary for this process. With remote notarization, they need not be present physically, as that is the whole point of why this process exists.
More States Are Being Listed
Initially, not all US states were given the clearance to carry out virtual notarization. However, as time progressed, more states were given clearance. As of July’21, a total of 38 states have been allowed to carry out remote notarization. These include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington, etc. Every week, more states are being added to this list.
Setting Up the Necessary Technology
While each state can establish its technological standards, all of them more or less follow the same structure. Both parties must be present in an audio-visual conference and be able to see each other. There are specialized end-to-end remote notarization systems to help notaries perform their tasks. Some of the more popular ones include DocVerify, Notarize, Safedocs, and eNotaryLog. These systems allow the notary to inspect the necessary documents properly as well as keep tabs on all the documents they are signing.
How Remote Notarization Works
For virtual notarization, the signer must be present in front of the notary via webcam. All the documents are sent to the notary digitally which they then check and validate. The signer must also present an ID proof to the notary at the time of the meeting. For a more thorough verification, the notary might ask the signer about certain personal information or credit history.
Once all the information is verified, the notary needs to sign and stamp the documents. Normally, the notary would use a notary stamp and ink to do so, and then add the date under it. Now, however, the stamps are delivered digitally. Once the offices go back to their physical workspace, these stamps will once again be delivered the old-fashioned way. A similar process of digitized notary seal is used in the eNotarization process.
After all this is done, the notary records the information into their journal records, and returns the notarized document to the signer.
Challenges of Remote Notarization
Remote notarization faces two major challenges – one from a skill level point of view, and the other being technological in nature.
In terms of skills or individual capabilities, it ultimately comes down to the people involved in the notarization process, that is both the signer and the notary. From being able to set up their AV systems to maintaining proper order, all these things depend on them. However, as long as the notary can guide their signer through the process properly, there should be no problem. So far, there has not been any major issue related to this problem.
The technological challenge, on the other hand, is a bit more complex to deal with. Even with the right systems and software, a notary might still have to deal with connectivity issues. Besides, given the concern surrounding deep fakes, notaries have to be extra careful while validating the signer’s ID and documents.
While there are no reports of using deep fakes for notarization, many states, and notaries, including those from California, are not too fond of this remote system. They are mostly concerned with the use of deep fake and how it could hamper the integrity of the notarization process.
Like most other remote operations, virtual notarization is also not a flawless process. It faces a lot of issues and challenges, and many notaries opposing its existence. However, for the time being, this process will stay on, at least till things completely return to normal.