Certified vs. Notarized—Let’s Get It Right

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Certified vs. Notarized—Understanding the Difference

Not everything is a copy of a copy. Learning the difference between certifying and notarizing copies of documents can help you avoid confusion and save you some time and money. What if the difference doesn’t come from these terms but the documents in question?

In this article, you can find out if there is any distinction when it comes to certified vs. notarized copies of documents.

Need help finding an online notary who can certify copies? —the best online notary platform!

What Is the Difference Between a Certified and Notarized Copy?

When a government agency or some entity requests a copy of a document, they usually specify whether you need to bring the original document or a certified or notarized copy. The tricky part is determining the difference between certified and notarized copies.

The good news is that there is practically no difference. While certified copies usually refer to the copies of vital records that you can get only from the county clerk or another official custodian, the terms certified and notarized copies of documents can be used interchangeably for the most part. What matters is the documents whose copies need certification or notarization and the public official allowed to perform such an act.

Can a Notary Certify Copies of Every Type of Documents?

Only a notary public can produce a notarized copy of a document. Notaries have to vouch that the copy is factual and accurate.

Here are some key aspects of notarizing copies of documents:

  • A notary cannot make a copy of another copy—Most states don’t allow notarizing copies of anything except the original documents
  • The document must not be a public record or a vital record, such as:
    • Birth certificate
    • Marriage certificate
    • Separation agreement
    • Divorce decree
    • Death certificate
  • Making notarized copies of school records is not allowed—School records are under the authority of the school’s registrar

Some states have additional requirements regarding the types of documents whose copies can be notarized. Here is a brief overview:



TexasNotaries in Texas can certify only the documents that can’t be recorded with any type of government entity
CaliforniaThe Golden State allows notaries to certify copies of and notary’s journal entries
HawaiiIn the Aloha State, notaries public are limited to certifying copies of entries in the notary’s journal
VirginiaThe state’s law prohibits notaries from attesting copies of court-issued documents

Why Do I Need a Notarized Copy?

Applying for a job or visa or submitting an admission to a university usually requires including some sort of an important document. It is not practical—and often not possible—to include the original documents.

Getting a copy notarized by a notary public makes it more complicated or impossible to alter the copy later and proves to the recipient that the copy is authentic.

Do All States Allow Notaries To Certify Copies?

No, not all states in the U.S. allow notaries public to certify copies of documents. In 2005, the U.S. State Department released information about which states allow notaries public to certify copies and which states don’t. You can check the overview in the following table:

States That Permit Certification of CopiesStates That Don’t Permit Certification of Copies
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

How Does Notarization Work?

How long the notarization will take depends on the notary service you choose. In-person notarization consists of the following:

  1. Finding a notary
  2. Scheduling an appointment
  3. Going to the notary’s office
  4. Presenting the documents that need notarization
  5. Providing an identification document, such as an ID or passport
  6. Answering several questions to help the notary verify your identity
  7. Signing the document before the notary
  8. Waiting for the notary to perform notarial acts and create the notarial certificate, which includes:
    • Date and place of notarial acts
    • The signer’s full name
    • Notary’s seal and signature

The notary will not make or witness the making of a certified copy if the document in question is not a true original. If you want a notary to certify a copy that has already been made, you will still have to provide the original document so they can compare it with the copy.

In states that don’t allow copy certification, the notary cannot seal and sign your copy. Instead of that, you have to write a statement that confirms that the copy is a true copy of the original document. The notary should seal and sign your statement.

Need an Online Notary To Certify a Copy for You? DoNotPay Can Help!

DoNotPay is your loyal assistant whether you need a notarized will, affidavit, car title, or power of attorney. We can connect you with an online notary that works round the clock any day of the week.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Find the Notarize Any Document product
  2. Upload the document you need to get notarized
  3. Add your email address

Once you complete the steps, you will receive a link in your inbox. You should click on the link to confirm your meeting with an online notary.

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