by Jamie S. Blair, originally published 11.28.2022
When I finally made the decision to go all-in with being a full-time mobile notary, I knew the rest of the world would not meet me halfway. I figured that if I was to make a name for myself as a leader in the industry, I could not just sit and wait for other “experts” to tell me exactly what I needed to do. My reasoning? When it came to receiving multifaceted advice from my colleagues or other professionals on various topics related to the success of a mobile notary operation, I concluded one of two distinct possibilities: either they would be right, or they would be wrong. It was up to me to listen to all available input and filter it through my own experience and instincts as a seasoned businessperson, and then get out there and make my own moves.
One decision that has consistently shown me favorable returns was obtaining membership through the American Society of Notaries, or ASN. The odd thing is, the reward aspect had not presented itself to me in the way that I had envisioned. Securing membership with the ASN and being listed on their website, I determined, would provide me some additional online exposure (in addition to the trifecta of being a member of the National Notary Association, building a company website, and having a Google Business Profile). I knew there was a very good chance this listing would award me a fair amount of business traffic. What I did not know was just how many individuals would be seeking me out as a direct result of my listing on the ASN website for the specific task of verifying I-9 forms for their upcoming employment. Even more enlightening, I came to learn from some newly ASN-acquired clients, was the fact that certain companies will flat-out ask their soon-to-be employees to find notaries that are specific members of ASN to help them complete the form!
The irony? Contrary to popular misunderstanding, I-9 verification is NOT a notarial act. Oftentimes I will have an individual in close proximity to my office find me on the ASN member roster, reach out to me via email or phone call, and ask about “notarizing” an I-9 verification form. It is at this point that I have to issue a point of clarification: Whilst I am ready and willing to set up an appointment in order to assist them, I am merely acting in an “authorized representative” capacity, as opposed to a “notarial” capacity.
At its core, the process of I-9 verification involves meeting with the individual who is about to commence employment with a certain organization, verifying that (a) their ID matches who they are and (b) they are eligible to work in the United States. The form itself was created by the United States Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is a required step in the employment application process as per Federal Law. The procedure consists of the employee filling out Section 1 of the form, in which they attest to such personal information as name, address, U.S. Social Security Number, and their citizenship/national/lawful permanent resident status. They then state whether they received help with preparing Section 1 from either a paid preparer and/or translator, after which they sign and date where appropriate.
My job after this has taken place during my meeting with the individual seeking employment is first to review the documentation presented (the list of acceptable IDs is not necessarily lengthy but can involve more than one piece depending on the issuing authority). I then fill in Section 2 based on what has been shown to me and where the individual is applying, write down their expected first date of employment, then include my contact info prior to finally signing and dating this section.
Sometimes I am asked why, as a notary public, I am not including my notary stamp or seal anywhere on the form. The answer is simple: I am not acting as an impartial witness to the authenticity of the employee’s signature. In fact, the language on the form clearly states that either an “employer” or an “authorized representative” is filling in Section 2 – the words “notary public” are nowhere to be found on this form. To affix my notary stamp anywhere on this form can be potentially misconstrued as notarizing the document, which would mean that I am technically notarizing my own signature, which is illegal since notaries public may not bear witness to their own signature.
Since notaries public – the above-board ones, anyway – are known to be persons of upstanding moral and ethical character, so are we thus depended upon to carry out this essential task, and do so in a reliable manner. As I-9 verifying does not fall under the same state guidelines as notarial acts, there are no limitations on travel fees, appointment fees, etc. allowing for I-9 verifying to be a lucrative addition to any notary’s list of available services. A notary can charge whatever fee, for whatever reasons, they so deem appropriate for performing this task. There are also no state-mandated recordkeeping requirements, although of important note is that in California a notary must be qualified and bonded as an immigration consultant in order to lawfully verify an I-9 form.
Well, what more can I say? Sometimes in the grand scheme of our daily hustle, diversification can find us. As long as we put forth the effort, this sort of “right listing, right time” luck will always feel earned.