Finally: California Passes Remote Notarization Bill

Need a document notarized? With the passage and signing of Senate Bill 696, California is starting the process of finally offering remote notarization services to the public.  

What is the difference between traditional and remote notarizations? In a traditional notarization, the signer and a Notary are required to physically meet face-to-face. The signer produces a handwritten signature on a paper document and the Notary verifies the signer’s identity, performs an oath if necessary and executes the document.

In a remote notarization, the Notary and signer “meet” remotely from different locations using encrypted, secure audio-visual communication technology, and the notarization happens remotely. 

What is the difference between electronic vs remote notarizations? Electronic notarization is the execution and verification of a digital document. Such notarizations are already legal in California and can be performed by California notaries, as long as the signer and the Notary meet in person to perform the notarization. Alternatively, remote notarization involves use of technology to allow the signer and the Notary to meet on a digital platform to perform the notarization. Both traditional and electronic notarizations can be performed in person or online.  

When did the bill pass? In early September 2023, the California Senate unanimously passed SB 696, sending it to Governor Gavin Newsom. It was then signed by the governor on September 30th.  

What will change and how will California transition from traditional to remote notarizations? SB 696 introduces a streamlined application process which will allow notaries to register online with the Secretary of State to become authorized for remote notarizations after passing specific requirements, including:

  • Retaining the audio-video recording of the notarization on encrypted storage devices or encrypted online media to be accessed by the notary public with secure multi-factor means of authentication.

  • Taking reasonable steps to ensure that any registered device used to create an e-signature or electronic seal is current and viable with the device’s issuing or registering authority.

  • Verifying the identity of a signer by satisfactory evidence that meets the Secretary of State’s requirements.

  • Recording each online notarial act performed in one tangible sequential journal and one or more secure electronic journals.

So when will this actually happen? The law is scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2030, but the Secretary of State can extend that effective date if they notify the Legislature and Governor before January 1, 2029. 

The passage of SB 696 is a vital step towards providing alternatives to in-person notarizations for Californians by California Notaries.