Certified copy

Certified copy

A certified copy is a copy (often a photocopy) of a primary document, that has on it an endorsement or certificate that it is a true copy of the primary document. It does not certify that the primary document is genuine, only that it is a true copy of the primary document.

A certified copy is largely a creation of English-speaking common law countries, and was designed for administrative convenience. It is usually inexpensive to obtain. A certified copy may be required for official government or court purposes and for commercial purposes. It avoids the owner of important documents (especially identity documents) giving up possession of those documents which might mean a risk of their loss or damage.

It has some similarities to a notarized copy, which is a form used in some countries, and particularly in some States in the USA. A notarized copy is signed by a notary public (not to be confused with a notary in a civil law country - see Civil law notary).

The certified copy is signed by a person nominated by the person or agency asking for it. Typically, the person is referred to as an authorised person. The person who is authorised to sign the certificate will vary between countries. Sometimes a person is authorised by legislation to do so (for example a court clerk, solicitor, or notary public), but this is not always so. In some countries, for example the United Kingdom and South Africa, identity documents can also be certified by authorised Post Office staff[1].

A copy of a primary document that is to be used internationally may have to be in the form of a notarized copy rather than a certified copy. A notarized copy may be more expensive to obtain. A copy of a document to be used internationally may also have to comply with special rules - Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents.

If the primary document has to be translated, an additional certificate is usually required. For example, a birth certificate in Russian is to be used in an English-speaking country. Typically, the document must be translated professionally and have the professional's certificate of accuracy attached to the translation together with a copy of the primary document. Then, the primary document, the translation, and the certificate of accuracy are photocopied in the form of a certified copy. In the case of a birth certificate in English to be used in Russia, it is possible that a notarized copy will be required.


In Australia

In Australia, certified copies are solely the creation of administrative practice. There is no specific legislation at either federal or State level.

Certified copies have long been used to give a veneer of authenticity to a photocopy of a primary document. In practice, they are very easy to obtain at almost no cost other than the photocopy, and are used in a wide range of situations, especially with identity documents.

In practice, and purely for convenience, a copy may usually be certified by a person who is able to witness a statutory declaration under federal legislation about Statutory Declarations. Categories of people are listed in Schedule 2 of the Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993 (Cth).[2] Schedule 2 states that Chiropractors, Dentists, Legal practitioners, Medical practitioners, Nurses, Optometrists, Patent attorneys, Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Psychologists, Trade mark attorneys and Veterinary surgeons may certify copies. Part 2 of the Schedule lists various other professions and positions, the members or occupants of which may also certify copies (for example, Judges, Police Officers and Members of Parliament).

A typical certificate endorsed on the photocopy is -


I certify that this is a true copy of the original document.

Signed: Dated: Authority to sign: Postal address/email address/telephone number:

There are notaries public in the Australian capital cities if a notarized copy form is required.

In Botswana

Photocopies can be certified free at a Police Station. Certified copies, for example of the "Omang" state identity card, are widely used, and are often required for job applications, etc.

In the United States

As part of "know your customer" banking regulations most U.S. financial institutions now require a certified copy of a passport when new accounts are opened. This would normally entail a copy of the pages containing one's name, photograph, passport number and date of birth.

Copy certification by U.S. notaries

Some states in the United States permit notaries public to certify copies; the laws or officials who regulate notaries should be consulted for details. The U.S. State Department in 2005 compiled a table summarizing the state laws and regulations.[3] In the table below, notes from the State Department table have been omitted for states that do not authorize notaries to certify copies.

U.S. State Certification of true copies permitted? Notes
Alabama Yes Only register pages[4]
Alaska No
American Samoa
Arizona Yes
Arkansas Yes
California Yes Only powers of attorney and notary journal pages.
Colorado Yes Only with signed written request stating certified copy not available from the officer of any recorder of public documents or other custodian of documents in the state.
Connecticut No
Delaware Yes
District of Columbia Yes
Florida Yes Only with supervised photocopying. A notary may supervise the making of a photocopy of an original document and attest to the trueness of the copy. F.S.A. § 117.05(15). A notary cannot attest to the trueness of a photocopy; only photocopies of original documents may be attested as to trueness F.S.A. §117.05(15)(a). A notary cannot attest to the trueness of a photocopy of a public record if a copy can be made by another public official. F.S.A. §117.05(15)a. This restriction does not apply to Florida civil law notaries (who are subject to F.S. 118).
Georgia Yes Only with supervised photocopying.
Hawaii Yes Only protests and notary journal pages.
Idaho Yes
Illinois No
Iowa Yes
Kansas Yes
Kentucky Yes Only protests.
Louisiana No
Maine No
Maryland Yes Only register pages.
Massachusetts Yes[5]
Michigan No
Minnesota Yes
Mississippi No
Missouri Yes
Montana Yes Only records issued or filed on the job.
Nebraska No
Nevada Yes
New Hampshire Yes Per New Hampshire Revised Statute 456 B:1 “Notarial act” means any act that a notary public is authorized to perform, and includes taking an acknowledgment, administering an oath or affirmation, taking a verification upon oath or affirmation, witnessing or attesting a signature, certifying or attesting a copy, and noting a protest of a negotiable instrument.
New Jersey No
New Mexico Yes
New York No
North Carolina No
Northern Mariana Islands
Ohio No
Oklahoma Yes
Oregon Yes Notaries are not permitted to certify copies of public documents, especially vital statistics. There is a regulation of the Health Records Division that specifically prohibits copying their records. The prohibition is not in the notary law, but in the law of the custodian of records. Oregon would allow an affidavit attesting to a true copy by the bearer, but the notary should encourage the bearer to get the real certified copy from the custodian of record.
Pennsylvania Yes
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island No
South Carolina No
South Dakota No
Tennessee No
Texas Yes A notary may not notarize a certified true copy of a recordable document. Birth certificates and marriage licenses are recordable documents. A recordable document is one that is recorded with some type of entity whether it be the Secretary of State's Office, a court of law, a county clerk, or the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Certified copies may be obtained by contacting such entities. A non-recordable document is one that has not been nor will ever be recorded with any type of entity. For instance, a letter is not recorded with anyone but there are times the sender of the letter would like to obtain a certified copy of that letter for his or her file.
Utah Yes Only if custodian of original appears.
Vermont Yes
Virgin Islands
Virginia Yes Virginia notaries are not authorized to certify true copies of birth, death, or marriage certificates. Only the Division of Vital Records/Statistics may perform such a certification.
Washington Yes
West Virginia Yes
Wisconsin Yes
Wyoming No

Notaries in many states keep journals of all their notarial acts. The table shows that in some states notaries may make certified copies of their journals but may not make any other kind of certified copies.

Notarized Copies of Identification in Non-Certifying States

In cases where a bank, government agency, or foreign consulate requires a "notarized copy of photo identification," and the state prohibits notaries from making certified copies, many of these agencies will accept a copy with a form of affidavit from the holder of the photo identification himself or herself attesting to its authenticity, which is then notarized. Thus, all the notary is doing is taking and signing an affidavit and not certifying a copy. The example below is acceptable in New York:

[attach copy of photo identification]

STATE OF NEW YORK, COUNTY OF ___________________; ss.:

______________________ [Print Name of Affiant/Custodian], being duly sworn, deposes and says: That the above pictured instrument of valid photo-identification is a true, exact, and unaltered copy of the valid original, my _____________ [description of instrument, e.g.: "N.Y.S. Drivers License," "U.S. Passport," "U.S. Permanent Resident Card"], to which I am the instrument's custodian, named and pictured therein; and that I presented the original of the above pictured instrument to the undersigned notary public as satisfactory evidence of my identity. I understand and acknowledge that this affidavit is not a certified copy under New York State law.


[Print Name of Affiant/Custodian]

Sworn to before this ______ day of _______________, 20____,

__________________________________ (Notary Public)

[official stamp/seal & commission information]

Notarial Wording

United States

Not all certified copies are prepared by notaries. In the case of certified copies by notaries, the certificate itself is subject to highly variable wording. In the U.S.:

  • I, A.B., a notary public, do certify that on DATE, I carefully compared the attached copy of DOCUMENT with the original. It is a complete and true copy of the original document.
  • I certify that this is a true and correct copy of a document in the possession of A.B. (NH)
  • On this DD day of MONTH, YYYY I certify that the ______ document is a true, exact, complete and unaltered copy of the original. (Mass)
  • On this DD day of MONTH, YYYY, I hereby certify (1) that the foregoing [or attached] document is an accurate and unaltered copy of NAME OF DOC, presented to me by A.B., the document's custodian, and (2) that, to the best of my knowledge, the copied document is neither a public record nor publicly recorded. (Utah)
  • I, (name & quality of attestor), certify that the foregoing is a true and faithful copy of the original (this day exhibited to me), the same having been carefully examined by me and compared with the said original and found to agree therewith word for word and figure for figure. (US Consulate or Embassy )


  • I certify that this photocopy is a true and faithful copy of the original, and that it has been carefully examined by me, compared with the said original, and found to agree with it word for word and figure for figure. (NW Territories)
  • ...certify that the photostatic reproduction annexed hereto is a true copy of the NAME OF DOC dated DATE of CUSTODIAN'S NAME and that I have carefully compared the said photostatic reproduction with the said original document. (Toronto)
  • ...DO HEREBY CERTIFY that the paper writing hereunto annexed, each page of which is stamped with an impression of my seal, is a true and correct photostatic copy of a document produced and shown to me out of the custody of CUSTODIAN and purporting to be NAME OF DOC., dated the DD day of Month, YYYY, the said photostatic copy having been compared by me, page for page, with the said original document, an act whereof being requested I have granted the same under my Notarial form and seal of office to serve and avail as occasion shall or may require. IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF... (notarial copy)


  • ...CERTIFY that the document hereunto annexed is a true [photographic] copy of the original document of which it purports to be a copy, I having carefully collated and compared the said copy with the said original and found the same to agree therewith. IN FAITH AND TESTIMONY whereof...
  • This copy is a true likeness of the original.[6] (Post Office)


  1. ^ United Kingdom Post Office Identity Document Certification Information
  2. ^ Commonwealth Government of Australia, Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993. Available at [1]
  3. ^ U.S. Department of State. (2005). Foreign Affairs Handbook Volume 7 — Consular Affairs. Available from http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86735.pdf
  4. ^ Ala. Code 36-20-5(2)empowers notaries to "Take the acknowledgment or proof of instruments of writing relating to commerce or navigation and certify the same and all other of their official acts under their seal of office."
  5. ^ Notary Public Frequently Asked Questions. (2010). official website of the Governor of Massachusetts.
  6. ^ Certified copies of documents

See also

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