Sometimes you are asked to provide a certified copy of a passport, and it may have you scratching your head. You know that to get a certified copy of a court document, you have to go to court and pay to have a clerk make a copy and certify it. The passport agency doesn't provide certified copies of passports, but you can get what you need by visiting a notary and pressing your case.

Copy Certification

Generally, it is the job of notaries public to certify signatures after establishing with picture identification that the person signing is in fact the person he represents himself to be on the document. For example, a notary watches a person sign a will and, after checking his identification, certifies that the signature is actually that of the person named. But can a notary certify that a copy of a document is authentic? That depends on the laws of the state, as does the procedure to be used. In some states, you can take a copy of an original document to a notary, together with the actual document, and she compares them and certifies the copy. In other states, you simply give the notary the original document and she makes a copy of it to certify. This is termed copy certification.

Documents That Can and Can't Be Copy Certified

Not every document can be certified in this way. Most states won't allow copy certification of vital records like birth or death certificates. Since a state agency holds the original documents, you have to go to that agency or contact it online to get a certified copy, and fees are almost always required. Passports and driver's licenses do not come from agencies that provide certified copies, so many states don't have laws regulating copy certification of these documents. Because of the ambiguity, some notaries may resist certifying a copy, but there is a way the notary can do this without violating state rules, a procedure known as copy certification by document custodian.

Copy Certification by Document Custodian

In this procedure, the document custodian – the person who has permanent possession of the document – certifies it. That person is you, not the notary. First, present a copy of the passport you want to have certified. Also give the notary a sworn statement, or affidavit, that the attached copy is a true copy of your passport, attaching the correct notary certification language to your affidavit. Provide the notary with acceptable identification and repeat the oath, swearing or affirming that the attached copy is a true and correct copy of your passport. Then sign the affidavit, and the notary signs and stamps the notary certificate.