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States with tricky Notary commission procedures

A person looking worried while using laptop

Updated 1-16-24. In many states, it only takes an application and a fee to become a Notary — but a few states have more unusual or complicated application requirements. Here’s a guide to 7 of the more challenging states.


California has one of the largest populations of Notaries in the United States, and the state is exceptionally strict in screening new and renewing Notary applicants. To become a California Notary, you must take a six-hour training course and pass a proctored exam. Applicants must also submit a fingerprint, and photograph and pass a background check conducted by the state.

Renewing Notaries must take a 3-hour refresher course, pass an exam and submit a fingerprint for a background check and photograph. 

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in California:

The NNA offers 90-minute Notary exam prep classes in California to help prospective Notaries prepare for the proctored test. The NNA also offers both live Notary training classes that meet California state requirements with the option of taking the proctored test afterward and an online California Notary training course option. Our Customer Care team can be reached by phone at 1-800-876-USNOTARY or to assist with scheduling Live Scan fingerprinting and background screenings.


In Florida, Notaries are regulated by two separate agencies: the Governor’s office, which appoints and provides educational information; and the Secretary of State’s office, which issues and maintains records of Notary commissions. To obtain a Notary commission in Florida, an application cannot be sent directly to the state by the prospective Notary. Instead, the application must be submitted both in paper format and electronically through a state-approved “Notary Processor” — the company that provides the applicant’s required $7,500 surety bond. New applicants also must go through a three-hour training course. The course is not required for renewing Florida Notaries. but they must submit a new application as before.

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in Florida:

Getting through the Florida commissioning process can be challenging due to the state’s special rules. In fact, the rejection rate for Florida Notary applications due to mistakes is one of the highest in the nation. However, the NNA can help you ensure your application is completed properly and accepted. If you choose to apply and purchase your bond and Notary tools through the NNA, the NNA’s online Florida Notary Application Wizard provides an easy way for new Notaries to complete their application and submit it to the state. The Wizard will walk you step-by-step through all the requirements needed to complete and submit your Florida commission application.


In Georgia, Notaries are commissioned by each county’s clerk of the county superior court instead of by a central state agency. New and renewing applicants can complete an online application form, which must then be printed out and signed by two county residents 18 years of age or older who have known the applicants for more than 30 days. The completed form must then be submitted in person at the clerk’s office for final processing. 

Typically, a Notary may submit a renewal application no more than 30 days prior to commission expiration. For Notaries who provide the GSCCCA with an email address, a renewal notification is sent out 30 days prior to expiration. Some counties allow renewing Notaries to submit their application by mail. 

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in Georgia:

The NNA has an online page for becoming a Georgia Notary that includes step-by-step instructions for applying for a Georgia Notary commission and a page for renewing Georgia Notaries.


To become a Notary in Illinois, the commission applicant must complete a training course from an education provider authorized by the Secretary of State, and pass an examination with a minimum 85% score. The applicant must also submit proof of their identity to the Secretary of State. Renewing Notaries must also take the course and pass the exam.

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in Illinois:

The NNA offers state-approved training, commissioning assistance and bond packages for Illinois Notaries. The NNA's Illinois Notary Application Wizard can help you get started. Please also see our Become an Illinois Notary page for additional information and assistance, or our Renew as an Iliinois Notary page if you are renewing your commission.

New York:

Every first-time New York Notary applicant must take a proctored, closed-book, one-hour examination, regularly scheduled at different sites around the state. New York Notary examination schedules and locations are posted on the Department of State’s website. A passing score is required and an application may only be submitted after passing the exam. For renewing Notaries in New York, the Secretary of State may waive the examination requirement for Notaries renewing their commissions with the county clerk before the expiration of their current commission or renewing their commissions within 6 months after the expiration of their current commission. 

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in New York:

Many Notaries have reported that they find the New York Notary exam challenging. The NNA offers a New York Notary Exam Prep Course to help applicants prepare for the state-proctored test and includes a full review of Notary law vocabulary included in the exam. Please see our Renew as a New York Notary page for information on renewing your commission.


Ohio Notary applicants must submit a criminal records check report demonstrating that the applicant has not been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a disqualifying offense, or any offense under existing or former law of Ohio, any other state, or the United States that is substantially equivalent to such a disqualifying offense within 6 months prior to application (attorneys who apply prior to September 20, 2019 are exempt). New applicants must also take a 3-hour course and pass an exam administered by an authorized provider.

In order to renew, an Ohio Notary must electronically submit to the Secretary of State: (a) a new Ohio criminal records check that is not more than 6 months old or a federal background check issued by the U.S. Department of Justice that is not more than 6 months old; (b) evidence of successful completion of at least 1 hour of continuing education provided by an authorized education provider; and (c) an application fee of $15.

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in Ohio:

To assist new Notary applicants in Ohio, the NNA has an online page with information about becoming an Ohio Notary, and also a page for renewing as an Ohio Notary.


Pennsylvania Notary applicants must take a 3-hour course within 6 months prior to applying and must also pass an exam within 6 months of notification by the state during the application process. Applicants for reappointment must meet all of the same requirements as for the initial appointment, but do not have to take the exam again unless they let their commission expire prior to applying for reappointment.

How the NNA can help you become a Notary in Pennsylvania:

To assist new Notary applicants in Pennsylvania, the NNA has an online page with information about becoming a Pennsylvania Notary and a page for renewing your Pennsylvania Notary commission.

David Thun is the Editorial Manager at the National Notary Association.

Related Articles:

Which states have the toughest Notary exams?

Additional Resources:

How to become a Notary Public

View All: Notary News


Add your comment

Thomas Newman

25 Apr 2016


27 Apr 2016

"To become a California Notary, you must take a six-hour training course and pass a proctored exam. Applicants must also submit a fingerprint, photograph and pass a background check conducted by the state." All this, so you can watch someone sign something and charge them $10? Am I the only one who finds this excessive?

Larry Adams

28 Apr 2016

Would you rather have to depend on Joe Blow, homeless, destitute and a convicted embezzler, to notarize your document? California's requirements do help screen unqualified or ineligible applicants out of the process. I was a California notary for eight years, and did not find the requirements excessive... just somewhat tedious. I would renew my commission again if I had reason to use it regularly.

Patricia Berger

29 Jan 2024

I am happy to read about the strict requirements in order to obtain the notary public commission, and I hope more states do the same very soon. In addition, continued education is extremely important.

Shari Arthurs

29 Jan 2024

If this article was updated on 1-16-2024, why isn't Montana on this list? Since July 2020, in addition to the "usual" age, residency, bonding and language requirements, four hours of approved education is required for all new and renewing notaries, the Secretary of State's exam must be passed with a minimum 80% grade, and no paper filings of new or renewing applications are accepted.

BK Jackson

29 Jan 2024

I enjoy California's laws, rules and regulations to become and remain an active notary. I wish there was something in place for checks and balances. In my travels while working with customers, I come to find that certain things are apparently happening in the field that should not be. I'll leave it at that.

Paul L. Whalen

29 Jan 2024

In the State of Ohio, members of the Ohio Bar (Attorneys) may become notaries upon application to the Ohio Secretary of State.

Karen Glenday

10 Feb 2024

I take exception to Mr. Larry Adams comments regarding "homeless and destitute people". You know homelessness has nothing to do with that person's credentials, education, or notary knowledge.

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