How to Become a Notary Public in Your State - It's Easy
How to Become a Notary
A notary public is commissioned by their state government, typically through the Secretary of State's office, to verify the identity of people signing legal documents. Notarizations are required to protect against fraud and ensure that legal documents are signed voluntarily. Many corporations and financial institutions have notaries public on staff. Independent notaries may also offer their services to the general public.
Meeting State Qualifications
Review the basic eligibility requirements.No formal education is required to be a notary. However, you must be at least 18 years old, a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States, and able to read and write English.
- Typically, you must be a resident of the state in which you're applying to be a notary. Some states will allow you to apply if you live in a neighboring state but commute to work in that state.
- Most states don't require you to have been a resident of the state for any specific period of time. However, check with the office of your state's Secretary of State to be sure.
- A list of the basic eligibility requirements is typically available on the website of your state's Secretary of State, or the government division that commissions notaries public. For example, the governor's office commissions notaries public in Florida.To find the requirements for your state, search online for "notary public" with the name of your state.
Complete a notary education course.Many states require you to take a 3- or 4-hour course that goes over the duties and responsibilities of a notary public, and the state laws that pertain to practicing as a notary and notarizing documents.
- Some states offer these courses for free. Others charge a small fee for the materials and the instructor's time, typically less than .
- Even if a course is not required, it's a good idea to take one so you have a better understanding of your duties and responsibilities as a notary.
Take out a surety bond.All states require notaries to have a surety bond that protects your customers from any mistakes you make when performing your notarial duties. Most states require bonds of between ,000 and ,000.
- Although it sounds like a lot of money, it typically won't be a tremendous cost for you. Bonds are issued much like insurance policies. You'll pay a small premium for your bond, which varies greatly among states and from company to company. State governments don't regulate the amount bond agencies charge for bonds.
- You can typically find a list of bond agencies from your state's secretary of state. There may be a list on the secretary of state's website, or included in your state's notary handbook.
Get errors & omissions insurance.While most states don't require errors & omissions insurance, you may want it – especially if you're planning on offering your services independently to the general public.
- While your surety bond protects the public, errors & omissions insurance protects you. Most bonding agencies also offer errors & omissions insurance.
- You'll pay a monthly premium for errors & omissions insurance, which varies from to 0 depending on the state where you live, the amount of coverage you get, and the bond agency. For example, a California notary could get ,000 in coverage for as little as a month, or 0,000 worth of coverage for 8 a month.
Applying to Be a Notary
Fill out your state's application.Each state has its own written application that requires you to provide information about yourself and your background. You can usually download this application from the website for the state government division that commissions notaries public.
- While you may be able to fill out most of the information on a computer, you'll have to print the form so you can sign it. Some states also require the application to be notarized.
- Some states may require endorsements from people unrelated to you, testifying that they know you to be of good moral character and capable of fulfilling the duties of a notary public. Your boss, co-workers, and religious or community leaders who know you well are good people to seek endorsements from.
Gather necessary documents.Many states require additional documentation to support the information in your application. Typically this includes a copy of the front and back of your government-issued photo ID. If completion of a training course was required, you also must include your certificate of completion for that course.
- Fees vary widely, but usually are under 0. Check the instructions on your application to find out what fees must accompany your application, and what methods of payment are accepted. In some states, you may be able to pay your fee online and print off the receipt to submit with your application.
- In some states, such as Colorado, you must take a written notary exambeforeyou submit your application. Other states allow you to take the exam only after you've applied and passed the background check.
Send your application to the correct government office.The application itself includes instructions on where to submit your application and related materials after you've completed it. You may be allowed to mail it in, or you may have to present it in person. Some states allow you to submit at least some of your documents online.
- Make at least one copy of your application for your own records before you submit it.
- In some states, such as Florida, you send your application to a bonding agency rather than directly to the government. The bonding agency then submits your application to the government.
Complete a background check.If you've ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, you must disclose this on your application. All states do fingerprint background checks of anyone applying to be a notary. If you failed to disclose anything on your application, your application will be denied.
- Your application won't necessarily be denied because of any arrests or convictions on your record, especially if they occurred many years ago. However, applicants with convictions for serious offenses, particularly crimes involving fraud or theft, are typically denied.
Pass a written examination.Most states, including California, require new notaries to take and pass a written examination before they can practice as a notary public in the state. The examination tests your knowledge about standards and requirements listed in your state's notary handbook.
- Some states charge a separate fee for the exam, usually under 0. In others, the examination is included with your application fee.
- The exam typically consists of around 30 multiple-choice questions based on information found in the notary handbook. Read the handbook carefully before you take the exam. There may be additional information and resources available on the website of your state's Secretary of State (or the government agency that issues notary commissions).
- The overwhelming majority of people who take the notary exam pass it. However, if you fail to pass the first time, most states allow you to take it again. You may have to pay an additional fee to re-take the test, although some fees reduce the fee for repeat test-takers.
Starting Practice as a Notary
Receive your commission in the mail.Once your application has been approved and you've passed the background check, you'll get your commission certificate in the mail. It may take as long as 6 weeks for your application to be processed.
- If your application is rejected, you will receive a notice that lists the reasons. If your application was rejected in error, or because you failed to provide required documents, you typically can re-file a new application without paying additional fees.
- If your application is denied, you may be able to reapply. However, you may have to wait as long as a year from the date of denial. You'll have to pay the application fees and take the exam again.
Take your oath of office.You cannot begin practicing as a notary until you've taken an oath of office. This may be before your state's Secretary of State, another government official, or another notary. Information on how to take your oath of office will be included in the introductory materials accompanying your commission certificate.
- The oath essentially states that you will faithfully execute your duties as a notary public, and that you will act with honesty and integrity.
Register your signature.Many states require your signature to be registered, either at the Secretary of State's office or at the county recorder's office in the county where you will be practicing as a notary. If you'll be practicing in more than one county, you may need to make multiple registrations.
- This is the signature that will be used for comparison if, for example, you allege that someone forged your signature and illegally notarized a document.
- Once you've registered your signature, you must sign your name this way every time you notarize a document.
Buy your practice materials.To start notary practice, you'll need a notary journal and a notary public seal. The materials that accompany your commission certificate will include a list of vendors where you can legally purchase your seal. Journals can be purchased at most office supply stores.
- Your notary seal will include your name, the words "Notary Public," your commission's expiration date, and the county where you live. You can only have one seal. It may take several weeks to create the seal. Once you get it, make sure all the information is correct.
- Your journal can be any ledger or notebook. It must be a paper record. Choose something with permanently bound pages, rather than loose-leaf or perforated pages, which can easily be removed.
Set up your journal.Your journal must list every notarial act you complete in chronological order. Your notary handbook has a list of all information that must be included in every entry. You can include additional information or descriptions if you want.
- At a minimum, each entry must include the date of the act, a description of the document or type of act, the full name, address, and signature of the person for whom the act was performed, and the type of evidence they provided you to prove their identity.
- You also need a column for the fee you charged for the services. Your state law establishes a maximum amount you can charge for notarial acts. However, you aren't required to charge anything. If you provided your services for free, put a zero in this column to indicate you didn't charge.
Advertise your notary services.If you're building your business as a notary independently, you can advertise yourself to the public. Check your state's law on notaries public to find out how you can advertise, and any disclaimers you must include.
- In many states, your advertising must include a disclaimer that you are not an attorney licensed to practice law in the state, and you cannot give legal advice.
- Imprinting your notary seal on any advertisements is generally a bad idea, and might violate state law.
- If you want to put a sign in your yard advertising notarial services, check your local zoning ordinance to make sure such signs are allowed in your neighborhood.
Add your notary commission to your résumé.Rather than working independently, many notaries work as administrative assistants in corporations or law firms, or in various positions in financial institutions.
- With a notary public commission, you may earn a higher salary than similarly qualified administrative or legal assistants.
QuestionDo I have to be an American citizen?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe United States Supreme Court, in the case of Bernal v Fainter, decided in 1984, that a notary applicant does not have to be a United States citizen. The resident alien notary applicant must be in the country legally, however.Thanks!
QuestionCan I become a notary if I have misdemeanors on my record?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost states will allow an applicant to become a notary with minor crimes in his or her past that do not have to do with fraud or dishonesty. Many of these states will allow the applicant to have a record of more serious crimes as long as the person has had his or her civil rights restored. A few states do not allow anyone with a felony on his or her record to become a notary.Thanks!
QuestionWhat does a notary charge?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThat depends on where the notary does business. In some states, a notary is not allowed to charge for notary services. Other states limit the amount to only a couple dollars. Your best bet to find out what they charge in your area is to call a few local banks. In fact, some banks provide notary services for free to their patrons for certain types of documents, so it's worthwhile to inquire with your bank specifically on that.Thanks!
QuestionWhere are classes normally offered, and where do I get my notary stamp?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNot all states require that you take a class, so check with your local government office. You can get your stamp from many places, including the American Association of Notaries and NotaryStamp.com.Thanks!
QuestionCan a mentally ill person become a notary?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere is no mental health check before becoming a notary, so yes.Thanks!
QuestionCan I become a notary in more than one state?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou must be a legal resident of a state in order to apply to become a notary. So most likely no, unless you own and live in several properties in several states.Thanks!
QuestionHow long is the notary course?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you take it through a bonding agency, it's available for free and it lasts a total of 3 hours. However, there is no timer, so you can finish sooner.Thanks!
QuestionHow much can I earn as a notary?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe average income for a notary public is 10-15,000 dollars, depending on what state you live in.Thanks!
QuestionDo I have to have a high school diploma or G.E.D. to apply?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, that's the minimum required to apply to become a notary.Thanks!
QuestionDo I have to have a high school diploma or a GED to become a notary?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOftentimes yes, but qualifications are determined by the state in which you wish to become a notary; you'll have to check online for your state's list of requirements.Thanks!
How can I become a notary if I am a US citizen living overseas?
Can I notarize a document such as a college degree for international jobs/schools?
Can I become a notary if my felony and misdemeanor charges are over 10 years old and they were expunged?
Hoe can I verify that my application was received and reviewed?
How do I notarize a power of attorney?
To become a notary, you need to be at least 18 years old, a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, and proficient in English. If you meet those requirements, you can fill out your state's application and take the written exam to become a notary. You may also be required to take a notary education course, where you'll learn about the duties and responsibilities of a notary public.
- Getting legal training, such as a law degree or a paralegal's certificate, may boost your application for a notary public appointment.
- Always keep your notary seal and journal in a secure, locked place when you're not using them. Don't leave them laying out on your desk where they could be taken and used.
- This article only covers becoming a registered notary public in the United States. Other countries have similar officials, but the process to obtain an appointment or commission may be different. Consult a government official near you for more information.
- Each state has its own procedures for admitting notaries. Some of these steps may not apply to you depending on where you live.
Video: How Becoming A Notary Can Help You Earn Extra Income
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