Can a notary certify a copy of a document?

PandaDoc Notary knowledge center

Are you interested in certifying a document, such as your marriage certificate? There are many situations where you may have to submit important documents like identification documents – birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport – as part of an application. In these cases, you would not submit the original document but rather a certified copy of the original document. So, can a notary certify a copy of a document?

A notary public assures that the parties signing the legal documents, such as a power of attorney, provide legitimate and valid identification and understand the implications of the legal document they sign. In addition to notarizing documents and forms, a notary can also offer copy certification.

This means that you need the services of a notary when you need to have the authenticity of a copy of your legal documents officially certified. These documents can include birth certificates, wills, student records, divorce decrees, and death certificates.

Documents and vital records that you may ask to have certified by a notary public include letters, contracts, settlement statements, bills of sale, and agreements.

There are several benefits of having certified documents. Certifying public documents means you can easily provide a true certified copy of your driver’s license, passport, or other important personal documents without handing over your original documents. This means that you will not run the risk of losing an original copy of your birth certificate, will, or marriage certificate.

What is a certified copy of a document?

A certified copy is a duplicate (usually a photocopy) of a primary document, such as a birth certificate, which is endorsed by a government or independent agency. This endorsement guarantees the authenticity of the photocopied document. A certified copy doesn’t certify or confirm that the primary document or original document is genuine, only that it’s a true copy of the primary document.

This means that if the primary document isn’t legitimate, you cannot use the certified copy to guarantee that it’s genuine. A true certified copy is a duplicate of a document that a notary has certified and verified as a true copy of the original document.

You may need certified copies of your original documents, such as school records, in many different circumstances.

Can a notary certify a copy of a document?

Copy certification involves making a copy of an original document. It also involves verifying a previously made copy. Various situations and legal documents require certified copies, including powers of attorney and wills. A notary performs a notary copy certification when they verify that a copy of an original document is a true, correct, and complete copy.  

Notary public in the US serve as government officials who act as impartial witnesses to the signing of various important documents and forms. Many US states permit notaries to make certified copies of original documents provided the original or primary document isn’t a publicly recorded document or a publicly recordable document.

Notarize online today

Connect with a state-commissioned online notary within minutes

Start free 14-day trial

notary hero image

It is worth noting that some states, like Nebraska and Michigan, don’t allow notaries to certify copies of legal documents as an official notarial act. On the other hand, some states restrict the types of documents and records that a notary may certify.

For example, in Florida, notaries are not allowed to certify copies of public records or vital records if the custodian of the public record can make a copy.

Learn how to notarize a document to keep protect yourself legally. 

In most cases, a notary public can only make certified copies of original documents. However, note that in some cases, like when the original document does not exist anymore, a notary can make or leave a note on the certified copy stating that it is “a photocopy of a photocopy.”

You should know that state laws vary. In California, notaries can only certify copies of a power of attorney or copies of the notary public’s own journal entries if asked by a court or the Secretary of State. After making the certified copy, the notary should attach an official notarial certificate to the certified copy, clearly explaining what the certification means. The notary should also keep one copy for their own notarial records.

Exceptions

Some US states don’t accept copy certification for documents or records of any kind, while other states only accept it for specific documents. For instance, New York doesn’t accept any copy certifications. Many US states have eliminated this as a function of public notaries because of concerns about security and fraud.

Additionally, note that some documents and records may never use copy certifications. These documents include US naturalization certificates, vital records like birth and death certificates, or recordable documents like deeds.

Copy certification by document custodian

States that don’t allow copy certification may allow “copy certification by document custodian.” You should know that copy certification by the document custodian is a legal process where the original document holder signs a notarized document and states that the copy is identical to the original.

People looking for a certified copy of these types of records and documents must request it from the custodian of the record, such as the federal government or state government. In many cases of copy certification by document custodian, the holder or custodian of the primary document, instead of the notary, vouches for the legitimacy or authenticity of the copy. A notary will notarize the document stating or mentioning that the copy is an original instead of notarizing the actual certified copy.

Certified vs. notarized: what’s the difference?

A notarized copy of a document and a certified true copy is the same. Although certified copies often refer to the copies of vital records and documents, such as birth certificates, which you can obtain only from the county clerk, the terms notarized and certified copies of documents are used interchangeably. A notarized document has more credibility.

A certified copy is usually used in most English-speaking common law countries, such as Canada, as a convenient way of offering a copy of documents. Keep in mind that certified copies may be needed for official government reasons or court purposes, as well as for administrative and commercial purposes.

What matters, though, are the documents whose copies need notarization or certification and the public or government official allowed to perform such an act. A certified copy prevents the owner of important documents from giving up possession of these documents, reducing the risk of loss or damage.

Notary copy certification process

For a notary to make a copy certification of a document, the holder or owner of the original document has to make an appointment with the notary and appear before them along with the original or primary document. This is a generalized overview of steps that have to be completed, and methods are slightly different from one state to another.

Step one

The notary will review the primary document to make sure that it’s original. Keep in mind that notaries can’t make certified copies of copies.

Step two

The notary will confirm that the document isn’t a public record or forbidden by your state’s laws and rules. Some examples of publicly recorded documents include deeds, divorce decrees, mortgages, and entity documents.

Step three

The notary will then verify the custodian’s identity and makes a copy. They will complete a copy certification form, and apply the official notary stamp. They will make a copy of the document or record on white paper. Find the difference between notary seal vs. stamp.

The copy certification form contains certain details, including the date, signature of the notary, name of the notary, and official stamp. It also includes certified true copy wording mandated by the state, also called the jurat.

Get documents notarized online with PandaDoc Notary

Certification of documents, such as student records, is usually important if you’re sending documents abroad. Some states in the US provide that notaries public can execute certifications of true and accurate copies of documents. PandaDoc Notary can help with getting documents certified and notarized, along with offering a variety of notary services like witnessing signatures.

The affordable and quick services will certainly meet your needs. With PandaDoc Notary, you can quickly and easily get your vital records and other documents notarized without leaving your home. With a simple and convenient online platform and flexible times that fit your unique schedule, PandaDoc Notary makes things simple.

FAQs

What is a verified copy of a document?

A verified copy is a copy or duplicate of the original document that has been dated and signed by someone, such as a public official, who can confirm that it is the same as the original.

Is a certified copy as good as the original?

Although it is not the same or as good as the original, the certified copy of the original document contains the same information as the original.

Is a certified true copy the same as a photocopy?

A certified true copy is usually a special copy of an original document and is made by a notary public or lawyer. A photocopy is just a copy made from a primary document without any certification attached to it. A true copy is a photocopy or duplicate made (without alterations) of any original document.

How do I certify a document by myself?

To certify a document, follow these steps:

  • Write ‘Certified to be a true copy of the original seen by me’ on the relevant document
  • Sign and date it
  • Print your name under your signature
  • Add your occupation, telephone number, and address

Notarize online today

Start free 14-day trial