How To Become A Notary Public In California

December 7th, 2012 by Craig Mullins

Here’s a link to the California Notary hand books2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

I just got my commission to be a Notary Public in California so I figured I’d notate the steps to get it.

The Qualifications are taken directly form the Secretary of state website.

Every person appointed as a notary public shall:

  • be 18 years of age or older (there is no maximum age set by statute)
  • be a legal California resident
  • complete a course of study approved by the Secretary of State
  • satisfactorily complete and pass a written examination prescribed by the Secretary of State
  • clear a background check

Child Support

Applicants found to be non-compliant with child or family support orders will be issued temporary term notary public commissions. Notaries public found to be non-compliant after the notary public commission is issued may be subject to commission suspension or revocation. (Family Code section 17520.)

Convictions

Just because you have a criminal record doesn’t mean you can’t become a notary. It depends entirely on what the conviction was for and how much time has passed. Unfortunately they won’t give you an answer as to if you’ll be approved or not until you go thru the entire process and pay all your fees. Here’s the Disciplinary Guidelines page and here’s a link to the 2012 Disciplinary Guidelines PDF. And even if you do not get approved after the initial review (like everyone goes thru) you can request an administrative review as to why you think you’d be a great notary.

This was taken form the first page of the “Notary Public Disciplinary Guidelines 2012” handbook.

“Deviation from the “Notary Public Disciplinary Guidelines 2012″ is appropriate when the Secretary of State in his or her sole discretion determines that the facts of the particular case warrant such deviation (e.g., nature and severity of the act, the presence of mitigating factors or evidentiary problems).”

In determining whether to deny, revoke or suspend a commission as a notary public, the Secretary of State considers a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Nature and severity of the act, offense or crime under consideration.
(2) Number and/or variety of current violations.
(3) Evidence pertaining to the requisite honesty, credibility, truthfulness, and integrity
of the applicant or commissioned notary public.
(4) Actual or potential harm to the general public, group, individual or customer.
(5) History of complaints received by the Secretary of State.
(6) Prior disciplinary record or warning from the Secretary of State.
(7) Circumstances or evidence in mitigation. (See page 35.)
(8) Circumstances or evidence in aggravation. (See page 36.)
(9) Prior disciplinary record of occupational, vocational or professional license.
(10) Evidence of rehabilitation and, in the case of a criminal conviction, evidence of a
certificate of rehabilitation or dismissal of the offense.
(11) Bench warrants or arrest warrants delay or prevent the Secretary of State from
determining whether an applicant possesses the requisite honesty, credibility,
truthfulness, and integrity to fulfill the responsibilities of the office. In such cases
the Secretary of State may hold the application and request additional information
from the applicant or other sources, or may deny the application.
(12) Pending appeals or other procedural issues of a criminal conviction(s) delay or
prevent the Secretary of State from determining whether an applicant possesses
the requisite honesty, credibility, truthfulness, and integrity to fulfill the
responsibilities of the office. In such cases the Secretary of State may hold the
application and request additional information from the applicant or other sources,
or may deny the application.
(13) Criminal record.
(14) Reports generated by law enforcement agencies.

State law requires all applicants be fingerprinted as part of a background check prior to being granted an appointment as a notary public. Information concerning the fingerprinting requirement will be mailed to applicants who pass the examination.

All applicants are required to disclose on their application any arrests for which trial is pending and all convictions. Convictions dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4 or 1203.4a must be disclosed. If you have any questions concerning the disclosure of convictions or arrests, contact the Secretary of State prior to signing the application.

For specifics about your arrest(s) and or conviction(s), please contact the California Department of Justice at (916) 227-3849.

The Secretary of State will recommend denial of an application for the following reasons:

  • Failure to disclose any arrest or conviction;
  • Conviction of a felony where not less than 10 years have passed since the completion of probation;
  • Conviction of a disqualifying misdemeanor where not less than 5 years have passed since the completion of probation; or
  • A determination that the facts of a particular case warrant denial, such as the nature and severity of the act or the presence of aggravating factors.

For additional information, please review the Disciplinary Guidelines.

The most common disqualifying convictions are listed below; however, this list is not all-inclusive:

  • Arson-related offenses
  • Assault
  • Auto theft
  • Battery
  • Burglary
  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Carrying a loaded firearm in a public place
  • Child molestation
  • Child pornography
  • Conspiracy
  • Discharge of a firearm in a public place or into an inhabited dwelling
  • Drugs, possession for sale and sale
  • Embezzlement
  • Escape without force
  • Failure to comply with a court order
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Failure to return to confinement
  • False financial statements
  • False imprisonment
  • Forgery
  • Fraud involving, but not limited to, bank cards, credit cards, insufficient funds/checks, insurance, mail, Medi-Cal or Medicare, real estate, tax, and welfare
  • Fraudulent impersonation of a peace officer
  • Hit and run
  • Kidnapping-related offenses
  • Manslaughter
  • Pimping and pandering
  • Possession of an unregistered firearm
  • Practicing without a license when a license is required
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Receipt of stolen property
  • Resisting or threatening a peace officer
  • Robbery
  • Solicitation
  • Statutory rape
  • Tax evasion
  • Terrorist threats
  • Theft, grand and petty, including burglary and robbery
  • Threats to commit a crime involving death or great bodily injury
  • Violation of Penal Code section 273.5 (domestic violence, spousal abuse, etc.)

Note: When a recommendation is made to deny an application, the applicant has the right to appeal the recommendation through the administrative hearing process.

OK, so your over 18, a California resident, and you think you’ll pass a background check.

How To Become A Notary Public In California

Now you need to take your required 6 hour education if you are a new notary or a 3 hour refresher course if you are a renewing notary. Your not eligable for the 3 hour class if your commission has already expired, so don’t wait till the last minute.

To locate vendors who have been authorized to provide an approved notary public education course, please refer to our list of approved vendors. They are listed by county. I’m in Alameda County, the list currently shows 195 organizations who are approved.

Once you pass you’ll be given a certificate good for 2 years. So you can take the state test any time within that 2 years.

Now you need to register for an exam by contacting Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS); and you need to take a 2 x 2 passport photo and staple that to your notary application form. Other Notary forms are here.

You have your date you are ready to take the exam…

Allow plenty of travel time (they won’t let you in late) and bring the following items (don’t bring anything else, especially notes to cheat or a cell phone – they WILL catch you.) to the exam:

  • A current photo identification (e.g. California Driver’s License or Identification Card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles);
  • A complete current Notary Public Application form;
  • A 2″ x 2″ color passport photo of yourself;
  • The Proof of Completion certificate of your six-hour or three-hour approved education course;
  • The registration confirmation letter; and
  • The $40.00 exam and application processing fee (or $20.00 exam fee for applicants who previously took the exam and failed). Payment must be by check or money order made payable to the Secretary of State (cash is not accepted at the exam site).

A score of at least 70 is required to pass the exam. Exam results will not be discussed over the telephone.

Successful applicants (those receiving a score of at least 70) will have their applications transmitted to the Secretary of State for processing.

Each applicant not receiving a score of at least 70 will be sent their original application and re-take voucher with the fail notice. The examination may be re-taken, but may not be taken more than once in the same calendar month.

Checks returned by the financial institution upon which they were drawn are subject to a return fee and may be grounds for notary public application processing delay or notary public commission cancellation. (Government Code section 8204.1.)

Now it’s time to bite your nails and WAIT to see if you passed. It takes roughly 15 days to get results.

Now you need to get fingerprinted.

Before submitting fingerprints via Live Scan, applicants must first take and pass the notary public exam. Applicants who fail the exam will not be required to have their fingerprints taken until passing the exam. Applicants must have their fingerprints taken within one year of the exam date. If fingerprints are not taken within one year of the exam date the applicant will be required to retest.

The Request for Live Scan Service(pdf ~442KB) form is available online. Important: A notary public commission will not be issued until a report from the DOJ and the FBI is received stating that there is no criminal history. If the report identifies any criminal history, a notary public commission will not be issued until the criminal history is reviewed, evaluated, and found to be non-disqualifying.

For Live Scan locations and business hours see the DOJ’s website at ag.ca.gov/fingerprints/publications/contact.php.

You must bring the following to the Live Scan site:

  • A completed Request For Live Scan Service (pdf ~442KB) form.
  • A current photo identification.
  • A fingerprint processing fee and an additional rolling fee. Please call the Live Scan site to verify the amount of the rolling fee.

Be sure to request a copy of your Request For Live Scan Service form and keep your copy until you receive your notary public commission. It is not necessary to mail a copy to the Secretary of State; the information will be transmitted electronically by DOJ.

So now you wait to see if you pass the background and you filled everything out correctly on the application. Here are current processing times. As of today 12/07/12 they are processing applications from 09/22/12. So it will take just under 3 months to get your applications back. When I did mine it took about 6 weeks.

The notary public commission packet includes:

  • a cover letter with instructions;
  • filing instructions;
  • a notary public commission certificate;
  • two Notary Public Oath and Certificate of Filing forms;
  • a Certificate of Authorization to Manufacture Notary Public Seals; and
  • a list of Authorized Manufacturers of Notary Public Seals.

If you took the exam at least six weeks prior to the expiration date on your current notary public commission, your new notary public commission will not be sent to you more than 30 days before the expiration date.

Once the notary public commission packet has been received, the next step would be to purchase the notary public supplies.

Notary Public Bond

A notary public is required to purchase and file an official bond with the county clerk’s office in the county where their principal place of business is located within 30 calendar days from the commencement date of the commission. (Government Code section 8213.) Once you get your notary packet from the state of California buy your bond the SAME DAY! It’s going to take the bonding agency a week to mail the bond paperwork back to you and you only have 30 days total once you get notary public paperwork from the state to file.

A notary public may utilize any bonding or insurance company of their choice. Check the local telephone directory’s yellow pages under the heading “Bonds”.

Notary Public Journal

A notary public is required to keep and maintain one active sequential journal for all their notarial acts. Journals may be purchased through local stationary supply stores. Be sure that your journal has sufficient space for you to record the required entries. (Government Code section 8206.)

Notary Public Seal

A list of Secretary of State authorized seal manufacturers will be mailed with the notary public commission packet. These are the only manufacturers that are authorized to make notary public seals.

So now your have your bond.

A notary public must file an oath of office and bond with the county clerk’s office in the county where their principal place of business is located. This must be done within 30 calendar days from the commencement date of the commission. This 30 day period cannot be extended.

Statutes provide for filing the oath and bond by mail. It should be noted that the county processes documents in chronological order, but not necessarily on the date received due to the volume of documents. The oath and bond may be submitted to the county clerk prior to the commencement date of the commission and must be filed no later than 30 calendar days after the commencement date of the commission.

It is recommended that the oath and bond be submitted in person to guarantee timely filing. (Government Code section 8213(a).) Don’t mail it in, go in person! Do you really want to take that awful test over again because the mail man lost all your paperworkor the paperwork came in 1 day too late?

The bond is designed to protect the public, not you. I’d highly recommend getting Errors and Omissions insurance. It’s fairly reasonable. I got a quote for one year of $25,000 insurance for $33.00. I got a quote for $100,000 of insurance for $156.00. This is California and if you screw up someones house paperwork, you could be in for a rude awakening. I’d buy the most you can afford for your business; especially if you own many assets that are paid off.

I ended up going with the National Notary Association because they offered the initial education, the state test, live scan fingerprints and took my photo’s all in the same day. They are recognized and well known  all over the United states as well; although I feel their pricing is a bit high. In one LONG day almost everything was done. Get a good nights sleep the night before and drink some coffee, it really is a long day.

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Information


Office Hours

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(excluding state holidays)

Office Location

1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Sacramento Office – Driving Directions

Mailing Address

Notary Public Section
P.O. Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277–0001

Phone Number

(916) 653–3595

Regional Office

The regional office, located in Los Angeles, provides in person services relating to authentications (Apostilles or Certifications). Please refer to our Regional Office webpage for the office address and services available.

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