Choosing Between True Copy, Certified Copy, and Notarized Copy. Get it Right!

I’m here to shed light on the differences between a “true copy,” a “certified copy,” and a “notarized copy”—terms that are often used interchangeably but have specific meanings in legal and official contexts. Understanding the difference between a certified copy, a notarized copy, and a true copy is crucial, especially for those handling legal documents, academic credentials, or identification papers.

True Copy, Certified Copy, and Notarized Copy

What is a True Copy?

A True Copy is fundamentally a photocopy of an original document that has not been altered in any way. This type of copy is not accompanied by any form of certification or verification. It serves merely as a reproduction, usually made using a photocopier or printer, without asserting the authenticity of the original document.

What is a Certified Copy or Notarized Copy?

A Certified Copy or Notarized Copy, on the other hand, takes this a step further. This is a copy of a document that has been stamped or endorsed by a certified authority, such as a Notary Public, to affirm that it is a true and accurate reproduction of the original. The critical point here is that the certification does not attest to the original document’s authenticity, but rather to the fidelity of the copy to the original.

Common Misconceptions and Clarifications

  1. Certified Copy vs. Notarized Documents: The terms “certified copy” and “notarized copy” are often used interchangeably; however, “notarized” can encompass a broader range of notarial acts beyond just certifying copies. A ‘notarized document’ is one that has been certified by a notary public. This certification process involves several key steps, witnessing, administering oaths, signing official documents, that give the document legal authenticity and help prevent fraud.
  2. Original Documents: Certified copies can only be made from original documents, typically characterized by a seal, stamp, or signature.
  3. International Acceptance: For documents that need to cross international borders, certification by a Notary Public is often required.
  4. Presence of the Signatory: Unlike other notarial services, certifying a true copy of a document doesn’t usually require the signatory’s presence. The original document must be present, however, which can be sent to the notary via mail or courier.
  5. Certification vs. Validation: It’s important to note that a certified copy does not validate the authenticity of the original document; it only confirms that the copy is a true reproduction.

Practical Applications of Certified True Copies

The necessity for Certified True Copies arises in various scenarios, particularly when dealing with sensitive or official documents. These copies are essential when originals cannot be submitted for practical reasons, such as the risk of loss or damage, or when the documents need to be presented in multiple places. Common documents that require certification include Passports, Driver’s Licenses, Birth Certificates, and academic records.

Notarizing Documents: Ensuring Legitimacy

The act of notarizing a document elevates its legal standing. A Notarized Document goes through a process where a Notary Public verifies the identity of the signatory, ensuring the document’s legitimacy. This step is crucial in preventing fraud and confirming the signer’s soundness of mind. Key points of notarizing documents:

  1. Authenticity and Legal Binding: Notarized documents provide a layer of authenticity and legal binding, often required for powers of attorney, contracts, and deeds.
  2. Verifying Identity: In notarization, the notary public verifies the identity of the signatory and ensures the document is signed in their presence, adding to the document’s credibility.
  3. Online Notary Services: With the advent of technology, online notary services are available, although the regulations for notarization can vary by country and region.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

  1. Is a certified true copy different from a notarized copy? No, there is no difference.
  2. Is there a difference between a True Copy and a Certified True Copy? A true copy is a direct photocopy of an original document without any form of certification or verification. Certified and notarized copies, however, are verified by a certified authority, such as a Notary Public, to confirm their fidelity to the original document.
  3. Can a certified copy serve as legal proof of the original document’s authenticity? No, a certified copy does not prove the authenticity of the original document; it only confirms that the copy is an accurate reproduction of the original.
  4. Is the presence of the signatory required when certifying a true copy of a document? No, certifying a true copy of a document does not usually require the signatory’s presence; however, the original document must be present for certification.
  5. Can a notarized document be used internationally? Yes, documents notarized by a Notary Public are often required for international use as they provide a layer of authenticity recognized across borders.
  6. Who can make a certified true copy? While technically anyone can attach a certificate to a copy, for it to be recognized and trusted, it usually needs to be done by a notary public or similar authority.
  7. Does a certified copy need to be made from the original document? Yes, a certified copy must be made from the original document, which is typically characterized by an official seal, stamp, or signature.
  8. Can a certified copy be completed online? No, a certified copy should be completed by a notary public in-person.
  9. Can I certify or notarize a document via email? No, due to the risk of alteration, documents cannot be certified or notarized through email. They need to be physically presented or sent securely.
  10. What documents typically require a certified true copy? Common documents that may require a certified true copy include passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and academic records, especially when the original cannot be submitted due to risk of loss or damage.

How Can All-Canada Notary Help?

We offer a full suite of notarial services. Visit one of our convenient in-person locations near you or use our online/remote commissioning services.