California Notary Frequently Asked Questions

Are you a new notary public? This is a list of our most frequently asked questions about becoming a notary
and what supplies you will need in the state of California.

 

California Notary Public :a person authorized to perform certain legal formalities, especially to draw up or certify contracts, deeds and other documents for use in other jurisdictions. A notary can also be referred to as a signing agent. 

See our How to Become a Notary Infographic for an easy breakdown of the steps you will need to take.

Where can I register/apply?

You can begin the registration process by reviewing the Notary Public Handbook that has been published by the California Secretary of State. To apply to the training course from one of the approved vendors, click here. If you are ready to register for the exam, you can conveniently schedule online through CPS HR Consulting.

Who can become a notary in California?

  • Anyone 18 or older
  • Legal resident of California (U.S. Citizenship not required)
  • Must take training courses approved by the secretary of state
  • Must pass an exam prescribed by the secretary of state

Exams are proctored by Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS)

  • Must pass a background check including fingerprint scan

For information regarding criminal records, a detailed list is available on page 11-12 of the Secretary of State's 2012 Notary Public Disciplinary Guidelines.

Where can I practice my notary services?

 Anywhere in the state of California.

Who can I notarize for?

As a notary/signing agent, you can notarize for any member of the public who makes a sensible request and meets all the requirements for notarization. For Example: Must have proof of identity and be physically present.

What kind of training do I need?

  The state of California requires a six hour training course from a state approved vendor. Click here for an approved list of vendors.

Do I need a bond or insurance?

 California requires all new notaries to have a surety bond. Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O) is NOT required, but it is recommended.

What is a surety bond and do I need one?

A surety bond is a promise to pay anyone harmed if you fail to honestly, diligently and faithfully discharge your responsibilities as a Notary. Any damages paid from the bond go to cover a signer’s losses and you must pay back the surety company. The surety company may also require you to repay any costs the company incurs in defending the bond. A surety bond does NOT provide insurance coverage for you. California requires this to thwart any fraudulent activity on behalf of the the Notary and to protect potential victims. It's similar to having car insurance in case YOU hit somebody.

What are the upfront costs?

  • Although costs for new notaries will vary, the California application fee is $40
  • The price of a surety bond is $38 and can be purchased here
  • Prices of training materials, passport photos, background check, fingerprint scans and clerical filing fees will vary depending on the source and location
  • Prices of Notary Supplies may vary (Notary seal embossers and stamps)

What type of equipment will I need?

  •  Rubber Notary Stamp

Stamp must have dark ink that does not bleed during or after use because documents can be rejected due to smudging. Your stamp seal will have the image of “The Great Seal of The State of California” and the customized text of Notary Name, Commission Number, Notary Public – California, County and Expiration Date.

NOTE – The State of California requires that you MAIL us a copy of your valid Secretary of State issued certificate of authorization in order for us to send you your official seal.

  • Notary Records Journal

Journal of notarial acts must be listed in chronological order in a paper format. Though not required by the state, it is highly suggested that you use a bound journal for your own protection because it makes it harder for pages to be misplaced or removed.

  • ID Guide

Suggested for mobile notaries in order to be able to determine if the form of identification, that has been presented, is an acceptable ID for notarization. 

Should I get business cards or marketing materials?

Although not a requirement, if you believe it is helpful for your business to have these, then it is a good idea. If you work for a company as a notary singing agent, then discuss with them if this would be necessary.

Is there legal risk?

Yes, since being a notary grants you certain permissions and responsibilities, there is also the need for insurance which was noted earlier.

How much legal risk will I face?

Risk should be assessed on a case by case basis, but being a notary signing agent comes with the responsibility of fully understanding the risks involved. Having E&O Insurance can potentially reduce your exposure to risk.

How long does my commission last?

In California notary commission will last four years. After that you will have to go through a notary renewal which requires reapplication and reexamination.