The term remote online Notary is often confused with electronic Notary. However, it is important to understand that these two terminologies are not the same. Based on legal definitions, there is a difference between a remote online Notary and an electronic Notary. We will be looking at the differences between these two often misused terms, but first, let’s consider the features of a remote online notarization (RON) and an electronic notarization (E-Notarization).
Features of Remote Online Notarization (RON)
Remote online notarization (RON) is the act of performing a notarization remotely via the use of a two-way audio-video technology. In most cases, this two-way audio-video technology is a webcam. Features of this form of notarization include:
- Remote online notarization sessions are done online via a recorded audio-video conference.
- Parties involved in this form of notarization include: the signer, the Notary, a witness, and/or any other party the transaction may require.
- Rules around the verification of the signer’s identity vary by state. In most states, these rules include specific measures that ensure that the validation is done properly.
- Validation of the signer’s identity in most cases is done through a knowledge-based authentication (KBA) in addition to presenting a valid state identification card or state driver license to the Notary public through the audio-video technology.
- RON can only be conducted by a legally commissioned Notary public who has been authorized to perform notarizations online using digital tools and a live audio-video call.
- In RON, an electronic signature is used instead of the signer’s wet ink signature, and the physical stamp and handwritten signature of the Notary is replaced by an electronic seal and digital certificate, respectively.
Features of Electronic Notarization (E-Notarization)
Electronic notarization (E-Notarization) is the act of performing a notarization electronically in the presence of the Notary, signer, and all other parties involved. Features of this form of notarization include:
- In E-Notarization, all parties involved must be physically present in the same location.
- Document(s) being notarized is in electronic format, not a physical piece of paper.
- Validation of the signer's identity is done in person.
- E-Notarization can only be conducted by a legally commissioned Notary public who has been authorized to perform notarizations electronically.
- In E-Notarization, the signer’s signature and the Notary’s stamp and seal is done electronically using a computer program.
From the features mentioned above for both remote online notarization and electronic notarization, we can see clearly that the two are not the same. The major difference between the two is the fact that for online notarization, the signer and the Notary are in different locations whereas, for electronic notarizations, they are physically together in the same place. Although most of the technologies used for RON and E-notarization are the same, RON has a more convenient feel to it. This is because it takes away the need of the signer or Notary leaving their homes in other to complete a notarization.
Now we’ve highlighted the features of remote online notarization and electronic notarization, let's now consider in detail: who a remote online Notary is and who an electronic Notary is.
Who is a Remote Online Notary?
A remote online Notary (also called online Notary or remote Notary) is a commissioned Notary public that has been approved to carry out notarizations remotely through the use of a two-way audio-video technology. An online Notary can perform notarizations at any time and from anywhere by simply using devices such as laptop, desktop, tablet, or even a smartphone. He or she does not need to be physically present with the signer and all other parties involved.
Who is an Electronic Notary?
An electronic Notary (also referred to as E-Notary) is a commissioned Notary public who has been authorized to perform notarizations electronically (without the use of a paper), but must be physically present with the signer and all other parties involved.
Difference between a Remote Online Notary and an Electronic Notary
An electronic Notary is often confused with a remote Notary, but the two are not the same. A Notary who has been permitted to perform remote online notarizations is known as a remote online Notary while a Notary who has been permitted to perform notarizations electronically is known as an electronic Notary. As we already mentioned, remote online notarizations differs from electronic notarizations in the sense that for remote online notarizations, the signer and Notary are not physically present together. So, a remote online Notary does not need to be in the same location with the signer and all other parties involved to perform notarization whereas an electronic Notary by state law must be physically present with the signer and all other parties involved. Since most of the technologies used by both a remote online Notary and an electronic Notary are the same, we can conclude that all remote online Notaries are electronic Notaries. However, we would be wrong to say that all electronic Notaries are remote online Notaries.
Procedures for Becoming a Remote Online Notary or an Electronic Notary
The requirements for becoming a remote online Notary or an electronic Notary vary from state to state. However, common to all states is the fact that you must first be a commissioned “traditional” Notary public. Some state’s Notary regulation laws allows you to apply for a Notary commission the same time you are applying to be a remote online Notary or an electronic Notary while some other states insist on you being a commissioned “traditional” Notary public first before applying for authorization to perform remote online notarizations or electronic notarizations. Before applying to become a remote online Notary or an electronic Notary, it is advisable for you to first check with your state what the requirements are. If you need further help on how you can become a remote online Notary or electronic Notary, visit RON University (“RONU”). RONU also gives you valuable insights on how you can set up for remote online notarization.
States That Allows Remote Online Notarizations or Electronic Notarizations
Although electronic notarizations have been legally approved in many states for more than a decade now, not until 2011 did a state legally approved its Notaries to perform remote-based notarizations. Virginia was the first state to legally approve remote online notarization in 2011. Several other states have followed suit after then. Despite the increase in the number of states that have expanded electronic notarizations to allow its Notaries also legally perform remote online notarizations, there are still some states that have approved electronic notarizations but not remote online notarization. States that allow electronic notarization or remote online notarization include: Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Arkansas, California, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, New Mexico, Texas, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, and West Virginia.