If someone is requiring notarial services but lacks the proper identification, we can use a procedure called obtaining a credible witness. In California, a notary may rely on the oath of either one or two credible witnesses as a proper form of identity. If only one credible witness is used, that credible witness must personally know the signer and be personally known by the notary. The credible witness must swear the following oath or affirmation:

That the person making the acknowledgment is the person named within the document.

    • The person making the acknowledgment is personally known to the credible witness.
    • That it is the reasonable belief of the witness that the circumstances of the person making the acknowledgment are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for that person to obtain another form of identification.
    • The person making the acknowledgment does not possess any of the identification documents named above.
    • The witness does not have a financial interest in the document being acknowledged and is not named in the document.

Since the credible witness is personally known by the notary, and the credible witness personally knows the document signer, this establishes a reasonable chain of knowledge regarding the identity of the document signer according to California notary law. If the Notary does not know the Credible Witness, then two Credible Witnesses may be used whose identities are proven to the notary. Please note that credible witnesses may not have any financial interest in the document, nor may they be named within the document!


The Credible Witness(s) do not sign the document but must sign the notary journal. Remember that a single credible witness must personally be known by the notary and must personally know the signer, so the notary will not use identification documents to verify identity, but with two credible witnesses, identity documents are used for the credible witnesses since the notary does not personally know either credible witness. Of course, if the notary knew either one of the credible witnesses, only one would be required.