||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (April 2010)|
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 often used in English-speaking common law countries as a convenient way of providing a copy of documents. 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.
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, 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). 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, often typed or stamped except for the signature -
CERTIFIED TRUE COPY OF THE ORIGINAL
I certify that this is a true copy of the original document.
Signed: Dated: Authority to sign: Telephone number:
Certified copies can be quite basic in Australia due to the lack of legislation. More detail is often required by the person or agency requiring it. Sometimes the person or agency will contact the person certifying the copy to limit the possibility of a fraudulent copy.
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
Except for notaries public in some states, there are no officials in the US who are authorized to make certified copies of any kind of document presented to them. If one is in a state where notaries public are not authorized to make certified copies, one must deal with the entity that issued the original document to obtain a certified copy.
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. 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|
|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.|
|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.|
|Maryland||Yes||Only register pages.|
|Montana||Yes||Only records issued or filed on the job.|
|Nevada||Yes||Not publicly recorded documents such as birth, death, or divorce documents|
|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.|
|Northern Mariana Islands|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
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
STATE OF MINNESOTA COUNTY OF HENNEPIN
I BERYL MATHILDA D'SOUZA, 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 U.S. Passport, 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.
BERYL MATHILDA D'SOUZA
Sworn to before this ______ day of _______________, 20____,
__________________________________ (Notary Public)
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)
Certified Copies of Identity Documents in Canada
In Canada, a number of applications and administrative procedures require a certified copy of an identity document. The certification has to be provided by a person other than the applicant. Additional requirements for this person are:
- Must be a Canadian Citizen, residing in Canada;
- Must be available to contact for verification;
- Must have known the person whose identity document they are certifying for at least two (2) years;
- Must be belong to any one of the following professions: Chief or Councillor of First Nations Band Council, council members of the Métis Settlements General Council, and members of the Saskatchewan Provincial Métis Council, dentist, Executive Officer of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., Executive Officer of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and of the six (6) Inuvialuit Community Corporations (Northwest Territories), Executive Officer Makivik (northern Quebec), judge, lawyer (member of a provincial bar association), notary in Quebec, magistrate, mayor, medical doctor, minister of religion authorized under provincial law to perform marriages, notary public, optometrist, pharmacist, police officer (municipal, provincial, or RCMP), postmaster, principal of a primary or secondary school, professional accountant (APA, CA, CGA, CGA, PA, RPA), professional engineer (P.Eng., Eng. in Quebec), senior administrator in a community college (includes CEGEPs), senior administrator or teacher in a university, social worker with MSW (Masters in Social Work), veterinarian.
The requirements for the text of the certification depend on the type of identity document:
- For identity documents without photo, the certification must include the phrase "I certify this to be a true copy of the original."
- For identity documents with photo, the certification must include the phrase "I certify that this is a true copy of the original, and that the image is a true likeness of the applicant. I am a Canadian citizen and have known the applicant personally for at least two years."
Further, all certified copies of identity documents need to include the following details:
- Printed name
- Contact information
- Date the document was certified.
- ...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. (Post Office)
- United Kingdom Post Office Identity Document Certification Information
- Commonwealth Government of Australia, Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993. Available at 
- U.S. Department of State. (2005). Foreign Affairs Handbook Volume 7 — Consular Affairs. Available from http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86735.pdf
- 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."
- An act concerning the definition of "notarial act" (Public Act No. 12-29). (2012). Connecticut General Assembly.
- Notary Public Frequently Asked Questions. (2013). official website of the Governor of Massachusetts.
- Nevada Rev. Statutes §240.075 (Nevada Legislature 2009, accessed January 17, 2012).
- Service Canada Web site, http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/goc/cep/how_certified.shtml, accessed May 15, 2012
- Certified copies of documents