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I-9 Form and Notaries Public

Notaries are often asked to complete I-9 forms by employees hired or working remotely from their employer. Employers may actually be instructing their newly hired employees to seek out a notary public in their area to assist in completing the form and review identifying documents. This may appear as something a Notary can do since they are reviewing identifying documents as a normal course of notarization. However, the I-9 Form is not a document that gets notarized – Ever! Before discussing why this is so, let’s learn what an I-9 Form is and how it must be completed.

It is required for all Employers to complete and retain the I-9 Form for all employees they hire. The form has three sections. Once hired, the Employee completes Section 1 of the form. This must be submitted to the Employer by the first day of employment.

Section 1 of I-9 Form

The Employer is responsible for completing Section 2. This is the section that Notaries are contacted to assist with. There are temporary rules that allow this completion and inspection of identifying documents to be conducted remotely. Employers will not be required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. The Employer can either complete this form or authorize another (Authorized Representative) to complete the form.  An authorized representative can be any person the employer designates to complete and sign Form I-9 on their behalf. This is where Notaries can get into trouble. Often Notaries are getting requests for completing I-9 Forms from Employees. But this form specifically states that it must be completed by the Employer or their Authorized Representative. The reason for this is because the Employer is liable for any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations in connection with the form or the verification process, including any violations of the employer sanctions laws committed by the person designated to act on the employer’s behalf. Notaries are not commissioned (or licensed) by their state for this authority; therefore, it is not within their capacity to conduct the completion of the I-9 Form.

I-9 Form Section 2

Can Notaries assist with the completion of the I-9 Form? Based upon the information on the document and from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services site, anyone the Employer selects and approves as Authorized Representative of the Employer may complete the form. If the Employer requests and approves a Notary Public to act as the Authorized Representative, and the notary agrees, then the Notary Public may assist in completing the I-9 Form based upon the instructions. However, any Notary doing so is no longer acting in the capacity of a Notary Public, but as the Authorized Representative of the Employer.

When notaries get requests to complete an I-9 Form, be prepared to gain information on the following:

  • Is the request coming from an Employer? If not, direct the requester to have their Employer seek the request. Only the employer can authorize a representative on their behalf.
  • In accepting the assignment as Authorized Representative, review what tasks are necessary to complete the form.
  • Never complete the form as a Notary Public or place your seal on the form. Seek guidance from your state’s licensing/commission before accepting the assignment.
  • Make sure you are aware that you are signing the document under penalty of perjury and that everything on the document is true and accurate. If there are blanks, consider having it completed or not signing.
New Legislation

Remote Online Notarization (RON) Does Not Deter Fraud

There is a significant push to move the process of notarizing documents from in-person to over the internet (coining it as the “RON movement” which means Remote Online Notary movement). The organizations pushing for this move are marketing online notarization as bringing the “old school” process of in-person notarization into a “modern convenient”, “business transformation” over the internet notarization that will result in “real estate savings”.

But at what cost?

Consumers, courts, and law officials understand that Notaries Public are trusted individuals commissioned by their states to help protect the public from fraud when they place their seal on documents. “Through the process of notarization, Notaries deter fraud and establish that the signer knows what document they’re signing and that they’re a willing participant in the transaction.” (Citation from NNA) There are particular screening processes the notaries take to determine a signer’s identity and their understanding of what they are signing and willingness to sign.  Doing this type of screening over the internet makes the screening process more difficult. And the current security processes the RON movement utilize for notarizing real estate transactions have yet to be tested in any court of law. 

Remote Online Notarization (“RON”) has yet to prove it deters fraud.

In an online notarization, the process to identify a customer shifts away from notaries public to a third party process that utilizes “modern tools that validate identity online, such as credential analysis and knowledge-based authentication” Notarize.com citation. However, these “modern tools” can be manipulated by “modern” identity theft fraudsters who use the internet to find the security question answers to bypass the validation mechanisms used in RON. With online notarizations, the notary public doesn’t have the ability to physically examine identification to independently authenticate the identity of the signer. And with another high-tech fakery like “deep fake” video, the notary public can be fooled into certifying the signature of a fraudster. 

“RON” makes it difficult for notaries to provide evidence for law enforcement.

The National Notary Association has indicated in their the 2017 “MODEL ELECTRONIC NOTARIZATION ACT” the need for online notarization to require the capture of principals’ and witnesses’ thumbprints for all real property documents. (Ch 9, § 9-4 Journal Entries, pg. 51) NNA asserts that many impostors will be deterred from committing forgery because they will not want to leave a thumbprint behind in the notary’s journal as proof of their attempted crime. Prosecutors often use the journal evidence to bring forgers to justice. Currently, no RON implementation has provided the ability to obtain thumbprints. California currently requires notaries to obtain thumbprints for notarizations dealing with deeds and power of attorneys. However, the current California online notarization bill, AB 199, has removed this requirement. If this bill passes into law as it is currently written, it will be more difficult to provide evidence of fraudulent notarized transactions. 

“RON” diminishes the ability for Notaries Public to determine the willingness of signers.

To determine signers understand what they are signing and their willingness to sign, notaries public observe the nuances of the signers’ non-verbal communication because nonverbal communication tends to do the work of communicating emotions more than verbal.  In the online environment, it is more difficult to pick up what is being communicated nonverbally.  Notaries may not be able to hear the signer’s tone of voice, see their gestures, or know if someone else in the room is intimidating them. The ability to determine the signers’ willingness and understanding to sign is therefore diminished when the parties engage over the internet. 

Why the Rush?

As the Vice President of Old Republic Title National Underwriting Counsel wrote: “Caution is the watchword here. State, federal and bankruptcy courts have invalidated mortgages and other documents due to defective notarizations. When that happens, the lender’s lien position is not only jeopardized but the enforceability of the mortgage itself is put at risk.” Current processes used by RON are not entirely equipped to handle safeguarding fraudsters in the way in-person notarizations are. The process of notarizing documents has been going on for hundreds of years and there is no upcoming end to this process. Before states hop on the bandwagon of RON, the lawmakers should assess their current process and determine if the movement to online notarizations will benefit or provide a detriment to their current process.   

Federal laws in recent years have pushed to protect consumer privacy and security, lawmakers would benefit to consider the costs and benefits of RON for their constituents.  Notaries Public are trusted by the public at large, courts, businesses, and law enforcement. There should be no reason to rush towards an untested process that may very well create more consumer fraud and abuse which can lead to distrust of the notary public profession.

How notaries serve the public seems to be working just fine going on several hundred years now. Let’s take a step back and focus on considering all avenues to safeguard the consumer in every way. When it comes to notarization, consumer protection is the ultimate purpose.

Notary Registration

The Journey Begins

What NeedANotary is:

The purpose of this website is to create a universal platform where people looking for notaries can find notaries public that service their area. Whether a person seeks traveling to the notary, meeting the notary somewhere, or working with a notary over the internet, NeedANotary.Com is designed to connect them.  There are powers in numbers, and we feel having one known spot online will generate more business for notaries while making notaries more visible to customers.

What NeedANotary is not:

A paid service!  There are no sign-up, monthly or annual charges. We structured NeedANotary to profit from the volume which means we are motivated to focus on increasing your signing opportunities.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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