You can notarize documents from another state but you cannot notarize documents when you are in a state other than the state that appointed you as a notary. Contrary to common belief, a notary does not sign a legal document to attest to its legality. A notary simply serves as a witness to the signature of the person signing the document.
Individual states rather than the federal government appoint people to work as notaries. The activities of notaries are governed by the laws of the state of appointment. A notary can administer oaths, take affirmations and witness legal documents. Every notary has a stamp that includes the name of the state that appointed the notary and the county within which the notary operates. A notarization involves the notary stamping, signing and dating a legal document after identifying the parties that signed the document or took an oath.
State laws prohibit notaries from notarizing certain documents. You cannot notarize a document to witness your own signature or the signature of a family member or close relative. You cannot notarize a document when you are in a different state even if the document was written in your state. Your notary powers end when you cross state lines so if you relocate to a new state you must apply to that state’s government for a new notary appointment.
In some situations, notaries face lawsuits stemming from allegations that the notary failed to properly identify the parties signing a document. Consequently, state laws require notaries to buy surety bonds which act like liability insurance polices in the event that a notary becomes the target of a lawsuit. Rules pertaining to surety bonds differ from state to state and many opponents of interstate notarizing site liability issues as the main reason for restricting notary's activities to a particular state.
In 2010, President Obama rejected a proposal that would have allowed notaries to operate across state lines. The bill’s proponents believed that the legislation would make interstate commerce easier. Opponents of the bill said that it would enable lenders to move more aggressively in foreclosure cases. Many lenders embroiled in court cases over legal issues related to foreclosures involve a lender based in one state and a borrower based in another.