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 US states. A notarized copy is signed by a notary public (not to be confused with a notary in a civil law country).
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 needs to be translated, an additional certificate is usually required. 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. For example, a Russian birth certificate used in an English-speaking country, a notarized copy will be required.
In Australia, certified copies are solely the creation of administrative practice. There is no specific legislation at federal, state, or territorial 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.
In some states and territories, police stations and libraries have arrangements to enable documents to be certified or witnessed by a justice of the peace. This service is free.
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 India, under section 2(j)(ii) of The Right to Information Act, 2005, the Public Information Officer (PIO) is mandatorily 'required to provide the appellant "Certified copies of documents or records."' In such a case, the PIO is only certifying that copies of documents or records are true copies of those held on a 'X' page of a 'X' file of the Public Authority, irrespective of their original source.
In Sri Lanka
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.
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||May certify true copies||Notes|
|Alabama||Partial||Only register pages|
|California||Partial||Only powers of attorney and notary journal pages.|
|Colorado||Partial||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||Partial||Only protests and notary journal pages.|
|Louisiana||Yes||La. R.S. 35:2 § 2(C) "Every qualified notary public is authorized to certify true copies of any authentic act or any instrument under private signature hereafter or heretofore passed before him or acknowledged before him, and to make and certify copies, by any method, of any certificate, research, resolution, survey or other document annexed to the original of any authentic acts passed before him, and may certify such copies as true copies of the original document attached to the original passed before him."|
|Massachusetts||Yes||Notaries are not permitted to certify copies of public documents.|
|Montana||Partial||Not of various public documents. [clarification needed]|
|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.|
|New Jersey||Yes||As of 2021|
|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 records.|
|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 where custodian of original is present.|
|Vermont||Yes||2022 law change gives authority beginning 1 July 2022.|
|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.|
|Wisconsin||Yes||Wisconsin notaries are prohibited from certifying copies of vital records, including birth, death, divorce, annulment, and marriage certificates.|
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, William T. Pavlik, being duly sworn, deposes and says: That the attached instrument of a CenterPoint Energy Utility Bill and Statement is a true, exact, and unaltered copy of the valid original sent to me by U.S. Mail postal delivery and that I presented the original of the above pictured instrument to the undersigned notary public as satisfactory evidence of my identity. X______________________________ William T. Pavlik Sworn to before this ______ day of _______________, 20____, __________________________________ (Notary Public)
In Vietnam, a certified copy or true copy of an original document can be attested by a Ward/District or higher People's Committee or Notary Office, not only Vietnamese official documents but also foreign documents.
- "Document Certification Service | Post Office". www.postoffice.co.uk.
- 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 7 FAM 860 Certification of True Copies of Documents
- 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.
-  La. R.S. 35:2 § 2(C)
- Handbook for Maryland Notaries Public, Maryland Secretary of State, April 2021.
- "Montana Notary Public Handbook".
- Nevada Rev. Statutes §240.075 (Nevada Legislature 2009, accessed January 17, 2012).
- New Jersey Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services (October 22, 2021). New Jersey Notary Public Manual (PDF).
- Vermont General Assembly. (2022). Act 171
- "WI DFI Notary Tutorial: Powers & Liabilities". www.wdfi.org. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Retrieved January 10, 2020.