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How to Become a Notary Public

While procedures differ from state to state, the general steps to become a Notary are:

  1. Make sure you meet all of your state’s qualifications.
  2. Complete and submit an application.
  3. Pay the state’s filing fee.
  4. Get training from an approved education vendor (if applicable).
  5. Pass a state-administered exam (if applicable).
  6. Complete fingerprinting and background check (if applicable).
  7. Receive your commission certificate from the state.
  8. Get your surety bond (if applicable).
  9. File your commission paperwork (and bond) with your Notary regulating official.
  10. Buy your Notary supplies.

Step-by-Step Instructions

 

Select a state to view the step-by-step instructions to begin your Notary commission.

 

Notary Requirements | Notary Training | Taking the Notary Exam | Notary Bonds and Insurance | Your Notary Commission

Why Become a Notary?

The overwhelming majority of the 4.4 million Notaries in America become Notaries as part of their job duties or as a value-added skill on their resume. Many others choose to become a Notary so they can have their own mobile Notary or Notary signing agent business. These individuals are independent contractors who earn money by handling mortgage signings, notarizing trust documents and performing many other tasks.

Aside from the additional income opportunities available, the office of the Notary Public has a long history and brings with it both credibility to the individual Notary and service to one’s state or U.S. territory. A Notary does not serve their employer; their service is to the state or territory that issues their commission.

If you’re interested in becoming a Notary Public, this practical guide answers many frequently asked questions. This is a general guide because each state has its own procedures for becoming a Notary Public. We provide some state-specific information for the questions in this general guide. If you want to skip straight to your state’s process and requirements, please select your state from the menu above. Is there a question we didn’t answer? Please let us know!

Notary Requirements:

 

Who can be a Notary Public?

The exact qualifications for who can become a Notary differs from state to state. In general, Notary applicants must be 18 years old and a legal resident of the state with no criminal record. Some states require you Notary applicants to read and write English. Some states also allow residents of neighboring states to become Notaries.

How much does it cost to become a Notary?

This varies widely, from less than $100 in some states to several hundred in others depending on the state’s requirements. The cost of becoming a Notary varies based on the application filing fee and the cost of any Notary training, exams, background screenings, required Notary supplies, and the cost of your bond (if applicable).

Do I need a background check to become a Notary?

In a few states, yes, a background check is a requirement to become a Notary. Some states where a background check is not required may choose to run one if you state on the application that you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the past.

Notaries who choose to become Notary Signing Agents will need a separate background screening to meet industry standards.

What Notary supplies are required in my state?

Generally, Notaries need three Notary-specific supplies: certificates, a seal for stamping certificates, and a journal for keeping a record of your notarizations. While not required in a majority of the states, every Notary should keep a Notary journal for the protection it provides both the Notary and the public.

Certificates are the most challenging type of “supply” because there are different types of notarizations, each requiring a different certificate. Most state Notary-regulating sites provide basic certificates, but these can often leave something to be desired when trying to make a professional impression at a signing. For this reason, some suppliers make certificates available online, so you can download the right certificate as needed rather than keeping a stock of paper certificates.

Keep in mind, just because a specific tool is not required by law in your state, doesn’t mean you can’t use it! There are plenty of Notary supplies available to help you perform your duties and protect yourself.

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Notary Training:

 

Does my state require Notary training?

States that require Notary training are: California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Delaware requires training and continuing education for electronic Notaries.

All required Notary training must be approved by the state, so – as long as it is an approved course – the basics required by the state will be covered in the training.

While fewer than a dozen states require Notary applicants to undergo any training or education, many others support the case for voluntary educational courses.

Where can I get Notary training if my state doesn’t require it?

The first place to check for training would be with Notary regulating agency in your state — usually the secretary of state’s office. Local community colleges in some states also offer Notary education. There are a number of organizations and vendors, such as the National Notary Association, that provide education for Notaries too. Some vendors may augment their training with helpful information that they know Notaries will need in order to be confident in their duties after they have become Notaries.

Notary courses can be taken in a classroom or online. The NNA provides live seminars in California and has online training for the rest of the U.S.

How long will it take to complete each course?

Required training courses typically run from 3 to 6 hours. Any optional training you may pursue may fall outside of these guidelines.

How much does Notary training cost?

There is no official standard because Notary training costs differ by provider. Generally, online training courses cost less than $100, and live seminars range from $100 to $200.

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Taking the Notary Exam:

 

Do I need to take a Notary exam?

In most states, no. States that require Notary applicants to pass a test are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah.

Wyoming encourages applicants to take an at-home test, but it’s not required. Ohio doesn’t require an exam statewide but a local judge or committee may require it.

How long will the Notary exam take to complete?

Notary exams last roughly an hour. They may include fingerprinting for submission with your state Notary application at the completion of the exam.

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Notary Bonds and Insurance:

 

Will I need a Notary bond in my state?

In most states, yes. Thirty states and the District of Columbia require Notaries to have a surety bond, but the amounts vary widely by state. A typical amount ranges from $5,000 to $10,000, although it can be as low as $500 or as high as $25,000.

A surety bond protects consumers. If you make a mistake that damages someone, the bond is intended to compensate the injured person up to the amount of the bond. You then would be required to repay the bond company.

Is Notary Errors and Omissions Insurance Required?

No, a liability insurance policy is not required, because your state does not write Notary laws to protect Notaries – it writes them to protect the public. That’s why many states require bonds. You should consider buying a Notary errors and omissions insurance policy because it protects you against claims relating to any errors you make during a notarization.

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Your Notary Commission:

 

Who regulates Notaries?

Notaries are commissioned and regulated at the state level. In many states, this is handled through the Secretary of State’s Office. Notaries in some states are commissioned by their county clerk or other governing body.

How long does it take to become a Notary?

If your state requires training, an exam, or other requirements, the process can take 7 – 9 weeks. It may take more time if the state is processing a lot of renewal applications too.

If your state’s requirements are minimal, the process to become a Notary can take up to 4 weeks.

Can anyone help me apply for my Notary commission?

Yes. In most states, there are organizations available to help you through the process. It’s helpful to go through a vendor or association because of the various steps you must complete. Florida, Illinois, and Texas require you use specific vendors and will not accept applications directly from applicants.

Where will I be able to notarize?

Most states authorize you to notarize documents throughout the entire state. A few states have unique rules regarding jurisdiction; for example, limiting where you can notarize within the state, or allowing you to perform notarizations for your state’s citizens outside of its borders.

Who can I notarize for?

In almost every state, you should notarize for anyone who comes to you with a legitimate, legal request for a notarization and presents acceptable identification. Some states have provisions allowing employers to limit staff Notaries to notarizing business-related documents during business hours.

How long is a Notary term?

A typical term is 4 years, but it’s different from one state to the next. Some states set the term for 5 years and others are 10 years.

Why is the Notary process different in every state?

Notaries are commissioned and governed by individual states. Because state Notary laws are all different, the requirements can vary quite a bit. For example, many California Notary laws have been put in place as a result of lawsuits and damage to the public.

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