The Real ID - Do I Use It For Notarization?

Dec 30, 2019

Hello, I'm Laura Biewer a California Notary and founder of At Your Service Mobile Notary and the mentoring service

Last week I spoke to you about being certain the ID that you take meets the requirements of your state. Today, I'm following up with that to talk more about another particular type of ID - that is the REAL ID! 

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Did you know for notarization, not one state requires the REAL ID? In order to notarize as notaries, we handle IDs every day. For some of us, there's 'suggestions' about the ID to meet satisfactory evidence. For others, there's a little more 'suggestion.'For instance, 'a government issued ID that has a photo and a signature.' And of course for some of us, like California, there's a specific list that has to been named and the ID has to have certain requirements. So depending on where you're at, your requirements will be a little different. 

But none of us are REQUIRED to utilize a REAL ID driver's license or state ID card. So most of us recognize the term REAL ID. We've heard about it. We think about the driver's license and the state's ID, but did you know there are a lot of REAL ID's out there? Those are not the only ones.

The requirements for REAL ID are not new at all. Actually, it started with the REAL ID Act back in 2005, so we're talking almost 15 years ago - and compliance is finally supposed to be taking place by October 1st of 2020. So what is REAL ID for? If it's not for notarization, then why do we need a REAL ID? And how do I know I'm even looking at one? 

First of all, the REAL ID Act is a cooperative effort between Homeland Security and the US States and Territories. It sets federal standards for the issuance of a driver's license or state ID or other form of ID. The goal is to make it difficult or impossible for criminals to forge ID documents that would gain them unlawful access to a federally regulated aircraft, nuclear power plants or federal facilities. The department of Homeland security is responsible for this enforcement.

As of November of this year, 47 out of 50 States have made significant progress toward that compliance. There is some confusion going on because in some States, your driver's license renewal date may come after October of 2020, and of course that's still a good driver's license to use. You're going to be able to use that for notarization, but it might limit you on getting onto a flight. For that, you're going to need another form of REAL ID. For instance, your US Passport or Passport card.

Now in California, here's another issue. They're not going to stop issuing regular driver's licenses or state IDs if you can't meet the requirements to get that federal ID. You can still renew and get a regular driver's license, and of course, you will be having to use some other form of REAL ID if you want to fly on a commercial flight.

California is issuing REAL IDs - so they're issuing both kinds at the same time. How do you know which is which? Look for the star in the upper corner of the card. It could be a black or gold star. It could be a white cutout of a star in a black or gold circle. And of course, if you're from California, it's the California bear with the white cutout of the star. In addition, Washington happens to issue what's called an 'enhanced' driver's license and it meets the REAL ID standards.

There are other cards that qualify for REAL ID that could be used instead of a driver's license or state ID card. They can be used for notarization if it meets your state's requirements. So it's really important to know what your state requires. Many of these additional cards might be missing a signature element, and if that's a problem for your state, then you would not be able to use that ID.

For your information, here's a list of cards that you may not realize meet the REAL ID standard for Homeland Security. Traveler cards, examples would be: Global Entry, Nexus, SENTRI, and FAST. Any one of those then are considered REAL IDs. In addition, the US Department of Defense ID, Military IDs and their dependent IDs as well. Remember, not all States can handle them for notarization, but for real ID, they meet the requirement.

With the Permanent Resident Alien cards, I can't take that for notarization in California, but many States do. A U S Border Crossing card, that could be one that's used. A federally recognized tribal photo ID, a foreign government issued passport, a Canadian provincial driver's license, or an Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card, Transportation Worker IDs - like the Department of Transportation, the U S CIS can be used. CIS stands for the United States Citizen and Immigration Services employment authorization cards. And there is actually a number on that card. It's an I dash 766. The U S Merchant Marriner credentials - I have never had that presented to me. I haven't even seen one.

Why is it important then for notaries to understand what a REAL ID is and what the difference is if we don't even have the requirement to use one? Because you might get asked by your clients about the fact that it's a REAL ID or it's not a REAL ID.

Also, what if it's one of those other REAL ID cards I mentioned and they say, 'well, Hey, it's met the REAL ID test. It's federally accepted. Why are you not taking it?' And that answer is very simple. Because the state controls the identification requirements and standards for notarization. Each state has a different set of rules.

I can go to Arizona next door to me and have a different list of IDs that I can accept that I can't in California. We do have some commonalities. So for instance, acknowledgements and jurats, all 50 States perform them. But did you recognize or realize that each certificate looks different? And so the certifications I make in my acknowledgement or jurat will be different than the ones that you may make. What's in common is the acknowledgement part or giving an author an affirmation part.

So, the next time you're looking at an ID, take a look in that upper corner and see if you recognize if it's the REAL deal. 

Until next time, make it a good one. And for all of you following me, thank you so much for 2019! I look forward to being back with you in 2020!

Have a good and happy and safe and prosperous New Year.

Until next time


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