When a copy of a document is requested by a government agency or other entity, it is often specified as Certified, Notarized or Original.
In California, the notary is prohibited from “Certifying” documents with the exception of Power of Attorney documents and their own journal entries.  Some other states do allow the notary to do so, which can cause confusion if the requesting agency is located outside California.

Certified documents:
Certified documents (or certified copies) are often requested for important documents such as vital records.  Examples of vital records are birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees and death certificates.  The original vital record remains on file with the jurisdictional agency (usually the county).  As custodians of the original document, only the agency that issued it can certify the copy of it.  Contrary to popular belief, one’s birth certificate is not an original document, it is a certified copy of the information on file at the county.

In California, if a customer asks a notary to “Notarize” their birth certificate or any other vital record, the notary should refer them to the county where it is filed so they may apply for a certified copy.

Notarized documents:
Notarized documents are documents where the identity and signature of the signer has been verified and witnessed by a notary at the time of signing.  The notary’s signature and stamp will usually be present on the document as proof of the notarization.

Original documents:
Original is simply that.  It is the original document you received from the issuing agency.  It is not a copy or duplicate.  An example would be your current passport.  When applying for a passport renewal, the original is generally sent back with the renewal application.

It is routine for foreign governments to require Certified or Notarized copies of original documents when processing passport, visa and OCI renewals and applications.  CA prohibits the notary from certifying that the photocopy is a true and correct reproduction of the original document, but the custodian (owner) of the document may and their statement can be notarized.

Per the National Notary Association:

“In states where Notaries are prohibited from certifying copies of documents, there is an alternative procedure called a copy certification by document custodian. This procedure allows a person in permanent possession of an original document to sign a written declaration that a copy of it is identical to the original, and take an oath or affirmation before the Notary.

The custodian’s signature is then notarized on the written declaration using jurat wording. In essence, a copy certification by document custodian is an affidavit signed and sworn to by the custodian with a jurat as the notarization. Remember, the custodian, not the Notary, guarantees that the copy is an authentic reproduction of the original.”

Once the customer has written their statement on the photocopy, the notary will place them under oath and the customer will sign their statement.  The notary will then execute a jurat notarization.  If there is room on the document and the notary has notarial verbiage stamps, they may notarize directly on the document.  If there is no room to do so, the notary will attach a jurat notary certificate.

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