Earlier this year, Pennsylvania enacted Senate Bill 841 to temporarily authorize remote online notarization during the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed into law House Bill No. 2370 (Act 97), effective upon enactment, which permanently authorizes remote online notarization.
Some key points from the new statute are as follows:
- The notary must register to use a remote notarization technology platform that allows the signer and notary to see and hear one another simultaneously. Any of the technology platforms on the list provided by the Department of State (DOS) continue to be acceptable. In addition, the statute provides that a notary may use any other technology within 30 days of notifying the DOS unless the DOS prohibits the use of the technology for good cause for failure to satisfy the statutory requirements.
- The notary must either have personal knowledge of the remotely located signer, or have satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity by oath or affirmation from a credible witness appearing before the notary, or be able to reasonably identify the individual by at least two different types of identity verification services. At least several of the pre-approved online technology platforms have built-in identity verification services.
- The notary must create an audiovisual recording of the performance of the notarial act. Practically speaking, this is accomplished by way of the pre-approved technology platforms recording and saving the notary sessions.
- While the remotely located signer can be located either in or outside of Pennsylvania, or even outside the US (subject to certain additional requirements), the notary must be located in Pennsylvania at the time of signing.
- The statute also authorizes recorders of deeds to accept for recording a tangible copy of an electronic record containing a notarial certificate as satisfying any requirement that the record be an original, so long as the notary certifies that the tangible copy is an accurate copy of the electronic record.
In addition, the statute requires the DOS to promulgate regulations setting forth the remote online notarization requirements in more detail. Among other things, the regulations will address standards for the technology platforms and identity proofing processes as well as for retention periods of the audio-visual recordings of the notarial sessions.
Pennsylvania joins at least 28 other states that have similar statutes that allow for remote online notarization. Remote notarization policies are currently governed by state law; however, the US Senate introduced a bill in March that would allow for the use of remote online notarization nationwide. While the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic (SECURE) Notarization Act of 2020 enjoys bipartisan support, the bill has yet to advance past the Senate.
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