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How to Become a Notary Public in California

California residents can become a Notary by completing the following steps:

  1. Make sure you meet all of the requirements (see below).
  2. Take a six-hour training course from a California state-approved vendor.
  3. Complete the CA Notary Public application form.
  4. Pass a state-administered exam. Bring your photo ID, completed application, 2” x 2” color passport photo, Proof of Completion certificate for the course, registration confirmation letter and $40 fee to the testing site.
  5. Submit the Request for LiveScan Service form with your fingerprints for your background check. The Department of Justice has a list of Live Scan locations.
  6. Receive your commission certificate from the state in the mail.
  7. Get a $15,000 surety bond.
  8. File your bond and oath of office with the county clerk within 30 days.
  9. Buy your Notary journal and Notary stamp from a designated vendor.
  10. Get E&O insurance (optional, but strongly recommended).

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In This Guide: California Notary Process | CA Notary Requirements | General Notary Public Information

More Details About the California Notary Process

Find more information about applying for a CA Notary Public commission below.

How much does it cost to become a CA Notary?

It costs $40 for applicants to file an application and take the Notary exam in California. Additional costs vary depending on the vendor you choose for the required training course, surety bond, live scan background check, passport photo, Notary supplies, and county clerk bond and oath of office filing fees.

The total cost of commissioning can differ depending on whether you are a new or renewing Notary too. New Notaries may need more “how-to” assistance than experienced Notaries. Books, additional training and live expert assistance are often must-haves for most new Notaries.

How long does it take to become a Notary?

After you take the exam, it can take anywhere from two weeks up to six months to receive your commission depending on the volume of applications currently being processed. The California Secretary of State’s office publishes updates on their commission processing schedule.

How long does a California Notary commission last?

The term of a Notary Public commission is four years, after which you will need to renew your Notary commission.

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Requirements to be a Notary in California

Learn how you can qualify to become a Notary in the Golden State below.

Who can become a Notary?

To qualify for a California Notary Public appointment, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a legal resident of the state of California
  • Not be convicted of a felony, a lesser crime involving moral turpitude or a lesser offense incompatible with the duties of a Notary

Examples of moral turpitude include (but aren’t limited to) crimes such as burglary, embezzlement, fraud, statutory rape or tax evasion. A more detailed list is available on pages 11-12 of the Secretary of State’s 2012 Notary Public Disciplinary Guidelines.

You must also have your fingerprints scanned electronically at an authorized “Live Scan” site as part of the background check. A list of Live Scan locations is available from the state Department of Justice.

Is training required to become a CA Notary?

Yes, you’ll need to take a six-hour training course from a state-approved vendor the first time you apply for a California Notary commission. You’ll also need to take a three-hour refresher course each time you renew your commission if you renew before your current commission expires. The California Secretary of State’s office has a list of approved education providers.

Do I need to take a Notary exam in California?

Yes, all new and renewing applicants have to pass a written, proctored exam administered by a private company called Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS). You must score 70% or higher to pass. Notary exam schedules, registration details and other testing information are available on the CPS website. You can also contact them at (916) 263-3520 to request information about exam locations and registration.

What kind of notarial supplies are required?

Once commissioned, you will need to purchase an ink stamp and a well-bound journal.

The Secretary of State will issue a certificate authorizing you to buy your seal from a state-approved vendor. The seal shape must either be rectangular no larger than 1” x 2.5” or circular no larger than 2” in diameter. The following information must be displayed on the seal within a serrated or milled edged border:

  • Your name as it appears on your commission
  • The California state seal
  • The words “Notary Public”
  • The county in which your oath and bond are filed
  • Your commission expiration date
  • Your Notary commission number
  • The seal manufacturer identification number

You aren't allowed to use a seal purchased from an unauthorized source like eBay or a stationery store. Ask if the stamp has a lifetime guarantee before you buy it because quality and durability can vary greatly among vendors. Stamps should not bleed during or after use, as this can cause county officials to reject documents due to smudging.

Every notarization you perform must be recorded in a journal. This record not only provides important information if there’s any question about a notarization you performed but also provides important proof that you performed your duties properly if you are ever named in a lawsuit or accused of negligence.

What is a surety bond and why do I need one?

California law requires you to get a $15,000 bond from a surety company authorized to do business in the state. A surety bond is a promise to pay anyone harmed if you fail to honestly, diligently and faithfully discharge your responsibilities as a Notary. Any damages paid from the bond go to cover a signer’s losses, and you must pay back the surety company. The surety company may also require you to repay any costs the company incurs in defending the bond. A surety bond does not provide insurance coverage for you.

What is errors and omissions insurance?

If you want to insure yourself against possible legal costs or damages, you may consider purchasing a separate errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy. An E&O policy will cover you for legal fees and damages up to the amount of the policy. E&O policies generally also cover attorney costs in the event you are required to defend yourself in court against a lawsuit.

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General Notary Public Information

Have more questions about being a Notary in California? We’ve got you covered.

Which state government office handles Notaries?

California Notary Administration is handled by the Office of the Secretary of State, Business Programs Division, Notary Public Section, located in Sacramento, CA. The rules governing Notaries Public can be found in the state’s Notary Handbook.

May I become a California Notary if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Yes. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to become a California Notary Public. You must, however, be a legal resident of the state and meet all other application requirements.

Can anyone help me become a Notary?

There are many private organizations that offer Notary training courses, including the NNA. The Secretary of State’s office provides a searchable database of approved education providers by county. You can also find qualifications, registration and testing information along with the state Notary Public Handbook and other resources on the Secretary of State website.

Where will I be able to notarize?

California Notaries are authorized to notarize documents anywhere within the borders of the state.

Who can I notarize for?

You can notarize for any member of the public who makes a reasonable request and meets all requirements for notarization, such as personally appearing before you and providing satisfactory proof of identity.

You’re prohibited from notarizing documents in which you have a direct financial or beneficial interest. The law allows you to notarize for relatives unless doing so would provide a direct financial or beneficial interest to you.

You may enter into an agreement with your employer to have your employer pay for your commission and supplies. In exchange, the employer may limit your notarizations during business hours to transactions directly related to your employer’s business purposes.

What fees can California Notaries charge per notarial act?

California Notaries may charge up to $15 for most notarial acts. An additional fee for travel or other services may be charged given that the signer is made aware of the extra fees in advance.

What should I do if I move or change my name?

Any address or name changes must be reported to the Secretary of State. If you move your business, residence or mailing address, you have 30 days to fill out the Notary Public Address Change form or write a letter and mail it to the SOS by certified mail or any other means of physical delivery that produces a receipt.

For name changes, you’re required to submit a Notary Public Name Change form to the Secretary. The SOS will issue an amended commission at which point you’ll need to file a new oath of office and bond amendment with the clerk of the county in which your principal place of business is located within 30 days. You’ll also need to get a new seal with your new name.

What is the process to renew my commission as a California Notary?

The process to renew your California commission is the same as becoming a Notary for the first time, with one difference. If you renew before your current commission expires, the training requirement drops from a six-hour to a three-hour course. Notaries are generally encouraged to begin their renewal process six months before their commission expires to avoid any gaps in their ability to perform notarizations. If you renew early, you can receive your new commission no earlier than 30 days before your existing one expires.

What do I need to know about remote online notarization in California?

California does not allow remote online notarization (RON). However, there are 24 states that have passed permanent remote online notarization laws. Check out this guide on what remote notarization is and what you need to know.

If you're not quite ready yet, we have additional resources where you can learn what a Notary is, what they do and why you should become a commissioned Notary.

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