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Should You Become a Remote Online Notary?
By Brenda Stone eNotary, Featured, New Laws, News, Notarial Law, Notarization, Notary Business eNotary, Remote Online Notarization, RON, webcam notary 10 Comments
Today’s article should not be considered an endorsement of remote online notarization (RON) or an opposing viewpoint. It is a simple summary of what I have observed since gaining my “boots on the ground” perspective. I will describe how I got set up and some of the issues that must be overcome.
Although, I am in Texas, other states’ notaries will undoubtedly have the same challenges that I had here. In fact, some states are using Texas online notary laws as a model and tweaking them to fit their needs. Others states have patterned theirs after the Revised Uniform Law on Notary Acts.
Nuts and Bolts of Typical RON Legislation
Below are the high points of remote notarization laws in layman terms, without techno-speak. Generally speaking, RON laws (or proposed laws) —
Create procedures for how a notary becomes a remote online notary including
fees a notary will be charged for the new commission
who may apply
education requirements, if any
Create or cite a list of defined terms used to discuss RON
Set fees that may be charged for online notarial acts
Establish that audio/video technology represents appearance
Indicate for whom the notary may notarize
Provide rules for the notary’s location while performing notarial acts
Explain the method used by the notary and signer to communicate (and appear) without being too specific on technology except to say that it must be secure and continuous (but stated in more complicated technical jargon)
Describe methods of identifying the remote signer that are acceptable
Determine the type of storage that a notary must use to store a video recording of notarial acts and/or documents notarized (if required)
Stipulate other requirements for record keeping, for instance:
rules regarding an electronic journal
the length of time that records are kept
who may access the records
Provide language for RON notarial certificates
Establish requirements for
the notary’s signature in the form of a digital image
digitized image of the seal
secure digital certificate
Mandate penalties for notaries and others if RON laws are broken
My Journey to Become a Remote Online Notary
As you may know, Texas notaries were able to get into the RON game in the summer of 2018. On the first day that I could apply, I was there front and center in line (virtually) to snag my online notary commission. I was approved in a matter of minutes.
Signing up with a Technology Provider
Your platform must meet the criteria set by your state. By “platform,” I am referring to a website or portal through which you conduct your online notarizations. Some propose that a web conference platform like Zoom are adequate for the appearance requirement. Even if it is, however, a web conference site can’t provide all of the other things discussed under the bullet points above.
My chosen platform was DocVerify. Why? As far as I know, DocVerify is the only game in town for independent notaries. In addition, they have a huge library of help files, both text and video.
The initial outlay was $275 to get my spot on the platform, pay for my online commission, a digital certificate (priced affordably through DocVerify), and other requirements so that I could notarize my first document. Notaries will also pay $40-$50 per month to the platform ($480 if paid annually or $50/month, if paid monthly). Additionally, there’s a cost of $2.00 per ID verification as there will be with any platform. All of those charges could be higher with another provider. I’m happy with my choice.
Digital Certificate Dilemma
I network with many notaries across the state. John Andrews, a retired police lieutenant from Chicago, is one of them. I want to credit him for having contributed significantly to my personal knowledge base on RON. Recently, John attended the Texas Secretary of State’s conference and returned with insight that had not “clicked” with me before.
Notaries in our state can have only one digital certificate registered with the Texas Secretary of State. From John, I learned that if you perform work on more than one platform, you’ll probably have to purchase more than one digital certificate. For instance, I purchased my digital certificate through the platform I am using. I can’t use the digital certificate elsewhere, only in that particular platform. So, if a company contracted with me and required that I work on a certain platform, I could not use my current digital certificate purchased from DocVerify. I would need to purchase an additional certificate to use on the other platform. Consequently, will be an inconvenience factor if a notary has more than one digital certificate. As stated above, the Texas Secretary of State allows notaries to have one on record. Any change or update of certificate should be reported to the Texas Secretary of State within ten days of its use and notaries may only have one certificate at a time on file. I believe that other states require this, as well, or they will eventually require notaries to register their certificates. All prospective online notaries should bear this in mind. Perhaps notaries should consider requesting an additional tweak to RON laws that will allow more than one certificate to be registered to an online notary.