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Virginia - eNotary - Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is an electronic notarization (e-notarization)?
2. What is an electronic document?
3. What is an electronic signature?
4. What is an electronic notary signature?
5. What is an electronic notary seal?
6. What is the difference between an electronic notarization and my current pen and paper notarization?
7. What other equipment will I need in order to electronically notarize documents?
8. How long does my electronic notary commission last?
9. Is personal appearance required in an electronic notary act?
10. Can an electronic notary take an acknowledgment over the phone, fax, or by video conferencing?
11. What are the electronic notarial acts a Virginia electronic notary is authorized to perform?
12. Am I required to keep a notary register of my electronic notarization acts?
13. Can I use a different name for my electronic notarization registration than what I use for my regular notary commission?
14. How do I identify a principal signer in an electronic notary act?
15. Is additional notary education required to become an electronic notary?
16. How do I apply to become an electronic-enabled Notary Public?
17. I’ve completed the application process but can’t get the forms to ‘create’?
18. The application forms have created, but how to I attach my digital signature?

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1. What is an electronic notarization (e-notarization)?
Electronic notarization (e-notarization) in its most basic and common form is a security procedure for attributing a signature and/or document. In performing an electronic notarization, a notary affixes his or her electronic signature, electronic notary seal and registration number to an electronic notarial certificate, which in turn is securely attached to an underlying document in a manner that will render evident subsequent alterations. The fundamental components of notarization, including personal appearance of the document signers before the notary, still apply. But rather than a paper document and a rubber stamp notary seal, the notary digitally places his or her identifying information to a document which exists as electronic data in a computer-readable form.

2. What is an electronic document?
An electronic document exists as electronic data in a computer-readable form, rather than as words on a printed paper page. Some examples of electronic documents are word processing documents, e-mail messages, portable documents format (PDF) files, documents scanned into an image format, such as the software known as Adobe, and web pages. An electronic document, such as a mortgage agreement, has the same properties as a paper version, but is created and maintained electronically, usually via a computer program or a web site.

The definitions in the state Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) for relevant terms pertaining to electronic documents are substantially the same:

"Electronic" is defined as "relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic, or other similar capabilities."

"Record" is defined as "information which is inscribed on a tangible medium or is stored in an electronic or other medium and which is retrievable in perceivable form."

"Electronic record" is defined as "a record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means."

3. What is an electronic signature?
An electronic signature is a symbol or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document. Common electronic signatures are in the form of an "I accept" button or a statement such as, "By clicking the submit button I agree to these terms and conditions", on an online form. Other forms include signing on an electronic signature pad, as are offered at many retail stores.

The term "digital signature" is often used interchangeably with "electronic signature." However, digital signatures or certificates are a result of a cryptographic (i.e. encoding and deciphering) operation. The technology behind digital signatures is an industry standard known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), a security framework or architecture which facilitates signed transactions by utilizing cryptography to ensure verifiable authenticity. The digital signature, essentially a complex coded message, cannot be copied, tampered or altered and is unique to both the document and the signer. The digital signature generally contains two complementary algorithms, one for signing and the other for verification, and the output of the signing process is also called a digital signature. The digital signature ensures that the signatory is in fact the originator of the message. Any changes made to the document after it was signed are in an indication to the receiver that the document may have been tampered with, thereby protecting against forgery.

Your digital signature provider (like IdenTrust and VeriSign, amongst others) will be able to assist your inquiry on whether the signature meets the standards for electronic notarization in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which are listed in the instructions and application page.

4. What is an electronic notary signature?
The electronic notary signature is a unique, independently verifiable image of the electronic notary’s handwritten signature that is retained under the electronic notary’s sole control and is attached or logically associated to the document, with the electronic notary seal. The signature is linked in such a manner that any subsequent alterations to the underlying document or electronic notary certificate are observable through visual examination

5. What is an electronic notary seal?
"Electronic notary seal" or "electronic seal" means information within a notarized electronic document that confirms the notary's name, jurisdiction, and commission expiration date and generally corresponds to data in notary seals used on paper documents.

a. Electronic Notary Seals (ENS) can be purchased or individually created, as long as they contain the information required in the notary law. An example of what it could look like:
eSignature
b. If you choose to create your own electronic notary seal, your digital signature provider can assist you with how to link the ENS to the signature and following link provides helpful information on how to link your ENS to your digital signature, as illustrated above:

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6. What is the difference between an electronic notarization and my current pen and paper notarization?
The only difference is the tools that are used to perform the notarial act. All aspects of the notarization remain the same, including requirement for personal appearance, positive identification of the principal, completion of the notarial certificate and affixing the electronic signature and seal.

7. What other equipment will I need in order to electronically notarize documents?
There may be other equipment such as a signature pad, scanning capability, file editor tools, etc. that you might need and should familiarize yourself with. Your digital signature provider or employer can assist you and provide training.

8. How long does my electronic notary commission last?
The electronic notary commission will expire on the same date the notary’s regular commission expires. The electronic notary commission will need to be renewed at the same time the notary commission is renewed.

9. Is personal appearance required in an electronic notary act?
Yes. When an electronic notary performs an electronic notarization, the principal and the electronic notary shall be in each other's physical presence during the entire electronic notarization so that the principal and the electronic notary can see, hear, communicate with, and give identification documents to each other without the use of electronic devices such as telephones, computers, PDAs, blackberries, iPods, video cameras, facsimile machines, etc.

10. Can an electronic notary take an acknowledgment over the phone, fax, or by video conferencing?
No. Electronic notaries must require face to face personal appearance for every electronic notarization, just as they do for a paper-based notarial act.

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11. What are the electronic notarial acts a Virginia electronic notary is authorized to perform?
a. The following types of notarial acts may be performed electronically:
i. Acknowledgments
ii. Jurats
iii. Oaths or affirmations
iv. Certifying depositions
v. Certifying "true copies" of documents

12. Am I required to keep a notary register of my electronic notarization acts?
a. Yes. (Effective July 1, 2008) A notary performing electronic notarial acts shall keep, maintain, protect, and provide for lawful inspection an electronic record of notarial acts that contains at least the following for each notarial act performed:
i. the date and time of day of the notarial act;
ii. the type of notarial act;
iii. the type, title, or a description of the document or proceeding; (iv) the printed name and address of each principal;
iv. the printed name and address of each principal;
v. the evidence of identity of each principal in the form of either a statement that the person is personally known to the notary, a notation of the type of identification document, which may be a copy of the driver's license or other photographic image of the individual's face, or the printed name and address of each credible witness swearing or affirming to the person's identity, and, for credible witnesses who are not personally known to the notary or electronic notary, a description of the type of identification documents relied on by the notary; and
vi. the fee, if any, charged for the notarial act.


The electronic notary shall take reasonable steps to
i. ensure the integrity, security, and authenticity of electronic notarizations,
ii. maintain a backup for his electronic record of notarial acts, and
iii. ensure protection of such backup records from unauthorized use.


The electronic record of an electronic notarial act shall be maintained for a period of at least five years from the date of the transaction.

13. Can I use a different name for my electronic notarization registration than what I use for my regular notary commission?
No. The name used on the initial notary commission is the same one a notary must use to register their capability to perform electronic notarizations.

14. How do I identify a principal signer in an electronic notary act?
The method of positive identification is the SAME in both paper-based and electronic notarial acts

15. Is additional notary education required to become an electronic notary?
There is no additional notary education required to become an electronic notary. However, the Secretary of the Commonwealth strongly suggests that you read and understand the Handbook for Virginian Notaries Public, which can be found on the Virginia.gov website.

In addition, you may need training to use the new electronic process or tools from your vendor or employer.

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16. How do I apply to become an electronic-enabled Notary Public?
Please review the Electronic Notary Instructions prior to applying to become an eNotary. The link to the on-line application is in these instructions.

17. I’ve completed the application process but can’t get the forms to ‘create’?
Check if you are receiving a ‘pop-up’ blocker message. If so, click on that to temporarily allow ‘pop-ups’.

Have you answered all of the questions, on the application? If you have not, the application will not print.

18. The application forms have created, but how to I attach my digital signature?
a. You should be able to click anywhere in the e-signature box and you will get a prompt to insert your digital signature. However, this may depend on your digital signature provider or employers’ process and software version or security requirements.

Glossary of Terms:
i. Private Key - can also mean Password, depending on the provider.
ii. Digital Certificate - can sometimes be interchanged with Digital Signature.
iii. Digital Signature - is often used interchangeably with Electronic Signature and means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document.
iv. Electronic Notary Seal - is often referred to as ENS and means information within a notarized electronic document that confirms the notary's name, jurisdiction, and commission expiration date and generally corresponds to data in notary seals used on paper documents.
v. Electronic Notarization - can be referred to as e-notarization.
vi. Electronic Notarial Certificate - the portion of a notarized electronic document that is completed by the notary public, bears the notary public's signature, title, commission expiration date, and other required information concerning the date and place of the electronic notarization, and states the facts attested to or certified by the notary public in a particular notarization.

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