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Answers to Signing Agent questions about background screenings

Standards for Mortgage Signings

Many signing agents have been asking questions about the status of background screening standards in 2015. The NNA reached out to Shawn Murphy, chairman of the Signing Professionals Workgroup and executive vice president of ValuAmerica, to help answer these questions from Notary Signing Agents.

Some signing services are asking signing agents for background screening information beyond what is recommended by the SPW in order to be considered for assignments. What does the SPW think signing agents should provide in order to ensure compliance with industry standards?

Both the SPW and the NNA agree that a certificate from a vetted background screening company stating that a Notary passed the screening should be sufficient. Please keep in mind that the SPW is establishing voluntary best practices and companies can choose to overlay additional requirements for any number of reasons that are outside our sphere of influence (e.g. greater security for the borrower, the compliance team determines it’s necessary to mitigate risk, comply with audits, etc.).

What is the SPW currently working on? Does the SPW plan to develop standards for signing services and other companies in addition to its standards for signing agents?

To date, the SPW has focused primarily on background screenings and the knowledge signing agents need to have. The committee is currently focusing on the exam and working to centralize vendor-neutral background screening verification so Notaries have fewer hoops to jump through in order to work with multiple companies.

For more information regarding common concerns surrounding Notary background checks, see these five myths about background screenings explained.


Add your comment

Pauline Fernandez

13 Apr 2015

Why do we have to do back ground screening every year, and the test every year. The expense is getting a bit much.


13 Apr 2015

More difficult than screening for president or a gun!

Pat Presswood

13 Apr 2015

I agree with Pauline on questioning screening and testing each year. I believe it is just a sweet Money making machine for NNA. Please advise your reasoning.

National Notary Association

14 Apr 2015

Hello Pat. We understand your concerns and you’re not alone. The SPW included annual background screenings as part of its standards because federal regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are cracking down on lenders, implementing thorough audits and holding lenders accountable for the actions of any third-party servicers they work with. The SPW has communicated to us that lenders need to make sure critical borrower information entrusted to Notaries remains secure in unsupervised environments like a signing agent’s home office. Lenders are ultimately responsible for the conduct of any third-party service providers, making it critically important to verify that the people lenders send to borrowers’ homes are trustworthy. Several companies have already started implementing rigorous background screenings to ensure that all of the necessary federal, state and local records have been searched and that they can verify the results. While some states request criminal conviction disclosures on the application form for a Notary commission, a lot can happen with a person in a year and the vast majority of states don’t have laws requiring applicants to get a background screening in order to become commissioned Notaries. While California does require Notaries to undergo a background check, the results of state-run screenings are not independently verifiable by the public, so it still doesn’t satisfy the needs of lenders if they are audited. We know this change has caused some bumps in the road, but the ultimate goal of the SPW’s standards is to better protect consumers and their financial information. Protecting signers is an important responsibility for both Notaries and the regulatory agencies driving these changes.


13 Apr 2015

I agree with Pauline regarding the constant upgrading and the cost involved. Add to this the need for all new Ack and Jurat pads after the change starting this year, and it seems hard to keep up with all the additional expenses that keep growing...even as signing fees do not. I do appreciate the need for security and screening. But annually is overdoing it a bit.

Beth Hathoot

14 Apr 2015

Second to the expense is the question as to why they need to see the details of the background report? If I pass the background check and get a certificate from NNA, they should accept the certificate and not demand the full report. One- I am a contractor and a corporation. As such I use my EIN not My SSN. They do not need to know my SSN. Second- My date of birth and DL are none of their business. They hired me because I qualified...not as an employee. Would you demand the DL number, SS number and DOB of the company owner when you hired that plumber????


14 Apr 2015

I see the annual update as a cost of doing business. It is about 2/3 of 1 signing appointment. Considering I handle hundreds of signings in the year, this seems like a reasonable expense. Taking care of this paves the way for the most flexibility to work for many companies. I make it up by insisting on getting paid the appropriate fee for the service I provide.


14 Apr 2015

I agree with Laura. It is a cost of doing business. The borrowers are in a very vulnerable position with Signing Agents. We have their personal and financial information at our fingertips. We are entrusted with this information by the lenders, title companies, and the borrowers. We know we are trustworthy, but our clients don't. Proof must be provided.


17 Apr 2015

Sorry Sonja, that won't fly. In NC we are COMMISSIONED Notaries through the NC Secretary of State and our County Register of Deeds. This isn't a Mickey Mouse type of service. Even lawyers use our services, so I shouldn't have to prove anything more. What disappoints me the most is that I tried to get NNA to complete a background check, only to find that I'm expected to go through their signing agent process. Mind you, I can prove 10 years worth of signing services, have my own EIN and corporation, degrees and other licenses. Fortunately I found a company that was acceptable for only $30.

M E Pouliot

20 Apr 2015 just did my backgriound check for 35.00, it was not accepted by a new company TRUSTED SIGNING, THEY WANT NNA, IT WAS DATED 2014, NEED NEW ONE

National Notary Association

20 Apr 2015

Hello. If you would like to obtain a background screening through the NNA, our Customer Care Team can assist you at 1-800-876-6827, or you can order a background screening package online at Please let us know if you need any further assistance.

C Handy

23 Apr 2015

I think that the FIRST background check is warranted as it searches 7-10 years back but annually thereafter should cost considerably less since they only have to go back one year. I am a veteran who has held top secret clearances for a full career and even the Military only updates background checks every 5 years. I agree that it is the cost of doing business, and deductible at tax time, but still the cost is too high as an annual requirement. NNA should consider lowering the costs for renewals.

C Handy

23 Apr 2015

in response to Beth Hathoot, I redacted a copy of my report for submission to signing companies. If that doesn't work for them then I can't work for them. you are absolutely right, there is no need to know SSN or DOB let alone every address at which I've ever lived.


22 Sep 2015

The background screening every year is all about money. All government jobs, Federal, State, City and Military don't even do background screening or investigation every year. Now that we as NSA must have the background screening mandatory I think the NNA should lower the Price. Same with the exam. Federal, State, City and Military take exams only one time for the job they are seeking. Then, all they do is take training during their career to keep updated on the job they have.

National Notary Association

24 Sep 2015

Hello. Not all background screenings provide the same information or are accessible to the public, and not all professions require one-time checks. Please see this article for more details:

jay s. kaplan

05 Oct 2017

what is the cost for a new background check and when does mine expire? thanks, Jay

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2017

Hello. If you obtained your background screening through the NNA, you can contact our Customer Care team at 1-800-876-6827 to check when yours expires and for assistance renewing.

Shirley Myers

05 Dec 2019

I ordered my first background screening 1/22 and now because of having to order in advance to make sure I get it whoever puts them out dates them for the date of order not the date completion. There for thru the years i'm now down to having to order each year earlier and earlier making this one 12/15/19 for what shouldn't expire till the end of 1/30/20. Can that be fixed and just have to have the current year in by a certain date no matter what date you order???

National Notary Association

06 Dec 2019

The NNA’s Notary Signing Agent Certification is effective for one year. Lenders and title companies typically require background screenings be performed annually. They want screenings no more than one year old at the time of loan signings. Your Certification date is the date your background screening was completed. We recommend that renewing NSAs be aware that the screening takes 5-15 days, and should begin the renewal prior to the one-year term to avoid a gap in Certification.

25 Dec 2020

How do I get a copy of my new background screening?

National Notary Association

06 Jan 2021

Hello. We've forwarded your request to Customer Care and one of our staff will contact you to assist you.

07 May 2021

How do I get a copy of my background screening report?

National Notary Association

26 May 2021

Hello. You can login to to download a PDF version of your background screening report.

barry s passetti

08 Feb 2022

I'm a general lines 220 agent, a 215 life and health agent and a series 6 and 63 securities agent which deals with the same exact info and a lot more than any NSA does and I had to go through background screening once, All I have to do to keep my licenses active is do continuing education every 2 years. Do I believe it's a money making racket? I sure do and it is

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