How to become a California Notary

Abbreviation: CA | 31st State | Statehood: September 9, 1850 |
How to become a notary in California:
To become a notary in California, a notary applicant must meet all of the following requirements:
  1. Be at least 18 years of age
  2. Be a resident of California
  3. Complete a six-hour course of study approved by the Secretary of State
  4. Pass a written examination prescribed by the Secretary of State with a score of at least 70
  5. Pass a background check by the FBI and the California Department of Justice
  6. Not have been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude

Qualifications for becoming a notary in California:
In order to become a California notary and receive a California notary public commission, a notary applicant must:
  1. Meet the eligibility requirements provided in the previous section.
  2. Satisfactorily complete a Secretary of State approved, six-hour course of study before filing the application, which will generate a Proof of Completion certificate.
  3. Bring to the exam site: (1)a current photo ID; (2) a complete current Notary Public Application form; (3) a 2” x 2” color passport photo of the applicant; (4) the Proof of Completion certificate of the applicant’s six-hour approved course of study; (5) the registration confirmation letter; and (6) the $40 exam and application fee. Payment must be by check or money order payable to the Secretary of State.
  4. Pass the exam with a score of at least 70,after such, their applications will be transmitted to the Secretary of State for processing.
  5. After passing the exam, submit a full set of fingerprints at an electronic Live Scan site, which will be sent to the California Department of Justice and to the FBI. To download a “Request for Live Scan Service” form, visit the Secretary of State website at http://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/forms/ or click here.
  6. After passing the background criminal check and the application has been approved, the Secretary of State sends a notary public commission packet that includes: (1) a cover letter with instructions; (2) filing instructions; (3) a notary public commission certificate; and (4) two Notary Public Oath and Certificate of Filing forms; (5) a Certificate of Authorization to Manufacture Notary Public Seals; and (6) a list of Authorized Manufacturers of Notary Public Seals.
  7. File an oath of office and a $15,000 surety bond with the county clerk’s office in the county where the commissioned applicant maintains a principal place of business within 30 calendar days.
  8. Send a copy of the oath to the Secretary of State, and the county clerk will retain the original oath for at least one year after the commission expires.
  9. Lastly, purchase a notary seal and journal before performing notarial acts.

Note: If the commissioned applicant fails to file the oath and bond within the 30-calendar-day time period, the notary commission becomes null and void. The commissioned applicant must reapply and submit a new application for appointment.

Can a non-resident become a notary in California?
No. A notary applicant who is not a resident of California does not qualify for a California notary public commission.

Is a California notary bond required to become a notary in California?
Yes. A California notary nond in the amount of $15,000 is required for new and renewing notaries public.

Do I need an California notary errors & omissions insurance?
Optional. Errors and Omission insurance is designed to protect notaries public from liability against unintentional notarial mistakes or omissions that resulted in financial damages to the public or a document signer. The American Association of Notaries encourages California notaries to purchase an errors and omissions insurance policy for their protection against liability.

How much does it cost to become a notary in California?
To become a notary in California, an applicant must include the $40 exam and application processing fee when submitting his or her application for appointment or reappointment, plus the cost of the required notary stamp, notary journal, bond, and the educational course.

How long is the term of a notary public commission in California?
The term of office of a California notary public is for four years commencing with the date specified in the commission. However, a notary’s commission may be rendered void by resignation, death, revocation, or when the notary public ceases to reside in California.

Where can I perform notarial acts?
A California notary has statewide jurisdiction and may perform notarial acts in any county at any location in California. Likewise, a California notary public may not perform notarial acts outside this state.

Who appoints California notaries public?
The Secretary of State appoints California notaries public.

 

To contact the Secretary of State:

 

Office of Secretary of State
Business Programs Division
Notary Public Section
PO Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277-0001
(916) 653-3595

How to renew your California notary commission:
A California notary must first take a three-hour refresher course from an approved vendor. A notary public seeking reappointment must take the exam and submit an application for reappointment before the current commission expires; otherwise, they must retake the six-hour educational course. If all application requirements are met, the notary’s new notary public commission will be issued 30 days prior to the expiration date of his or her current commission. Electronic fingerprinting is required of all renewing applicants.

Are there any exams or notary course requirements to become or renew your California notary commission?
All applicants are required to take and satisfactorily complete a six-hour course approved to be issued a first-time California notary public commission. A California notary who holds a current notary public commission is required to take and satisfactorily complete an approved three-hour refresher course prior to reappointment as a notary public. Upon completion of the required educational course of study, the applicants will receive Proof of Completion Certificate. Registration for the exam can be made online or by contacting Cooperative Personnel Services at (916) 263-3520. All applicants must have a passing score of at least 70 on their written examination. At the exam site, an applicant must bring: (1) a current photo ID; (2) a complete current Notary Public Application form; (3) a 2” x 2” color passport photo of the applicant; (4) the Proof of Completion certificate of the applicant’s six-hour or three-hour approved notary public course of study; (5) the registration confirmation letter; and (6) the $40 exam and application fee (or $20 exam fee for applicants who previously took the exam and failed).

Do I need to purchase a notary stamp in California?
California law requires all notaries public to use a rubber-inked stamp or embosser to authenticate all notarial acts. Section 8207 of the California Government Code provides the legal specifications regarding the layout and the information required on all notary official seals.

 

Dimensions: Be circular not more than 2” in diameter, or be rectangular form of not more than 1” in width by 2 ½”in length, with a serrated or milled edge border.

 

Required Elements: The official seal must contain the following elements

  • The State Seal
  • The words “Notary Public”
  • The name of the county where the notary’s oath of office and bond are on file
  • The name of the notary public as it appears on the notary public commission
  • The date the notary public’s commission expires
  • The sequential identification number assigned to the notary
  • The sequential identification number assigned to the seal manufacturer or vendor
  •  

    The official seal must be photographically reproducible when affixed to a document. The official seal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public.

    Is a notary journal required in California?
    Yes. Section 8206 of the California Government Code requires all California notaries to keep one active sequential journal at a time of all notarial acts performed as a notary public. The journal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public. For California notary supplies, visit the American Association of Notaries website at www.usnotaries.com or call (800) 721-2663 or click here.

    How much can a California notary charge for performing notarial acts?
    California notary fees are set by statute (§8211). The maximum allowable fees that a California notary public can charge for notarial acts are listed below:

  • Acknowledgments - $15.00
  • Jurats - $15.00
  • Oaths or affirmations - $15.00
  • Certifying a copy of a power of attorney - $15.00
  • Protests - $15.00
  • Depositions - $30.00
    + $7 for administering an oath to the witness
    + $7 for notarizing a certificate to the deposition
  •  

    Exception: No fees may be charged to notarize signatures on vote by mail ballot identification envelopes or other voting materials. No fee may be charged to a United States military veteran for notarization of an application or claim for a pension, allotment, compensation, allowance, insurance, or any other veteran’s benefit.

    What notarial acts can a California notary public perform?
    A California notary public is authorized to perform five notarial acts
  • Take acknowledgments and proofs
  • Administer oaths and affirmations
  • Take depositions and affidavits
  • Certify copies of powers of attorney or copies of journal entries
  • Note a protest of a negotiable instrument (only certain notary employees of financial institutions)
  • Can I perform electronic notarizations in California?
    California has not adopted notary statutes or regulations establishing the rules and procedures for electronic notarization. However, the Secretary of State’s 2017 Notary Public Handbook specifically, states that California notaries are authorized under current law to perform notarizations on documents electronically as long as all requirements for a traditional paper-based notarial act are met, including the use of a seal for all but two specific documents used in real estate transactions. First and foremost, the California law mandates that the document signer must personally appear before the notary public physically close enough to see, hear, communicate, and give identification credentials to each other without reliance on an electronic device such as a telephone, computer, video camera, or facsimile machine at the time of the performance of the notarial act. A video image or other form of non-physical representation is not a personal appearance in front of a notary public under California law. Furthermore, California notaries public are prohibited from performing online webcam notarizations, which are illegal in California.

    How do I change my address?
    A California notary is required to notify the Secretary of State of any change of business or residence address in writing, by certified mail or any other means of physical delivery that provides a receipt, within 30 days. The notary’s address notification must include the notary’s commission name, commission number, commission expiration date, and the new address. Upon the change of a business or residence address to a new county, a notary public may elect to file a new oath of office and bond in the new county. However, filing a new oath and bond is optional. Once the Secretary of State has received the written notification, the notary will receive a certificate of authorization to manufacture to purchase a new seal that reflects the new county. To file an address change, visit the Secretary of State website at http://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/forms/ or click here.

    How do I change my name on my notary commission?
    If a California notary changes his or her name, a Notary Public Name Change form must be filed with the Secretary of State. After receiving the completed name change form, the Secretary of State will issue an amended commission in the notary’s new name. Within 30 days after the issuance of the amended commission, the notary public must file a new oath of office and a bond amendment with the clerk of the county in which the notary’s principal place of business is located. Within 30 days after filing, the California notary public must obtain a seal with his or her new name. To file a name change, visit the Secretary of State website at http://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/forms/ or click here.

    Death/Resignation/Removal:
    A California notary public or his or her representative is required to send a signed letter to the Secretary of State’s office if the Notary: (1) no longer maintains residence in California during the entire term of appointment; (2) no longer wishes to hold the office of notary public; (3) is deceased; and (4) is duty-bound to resign by court order or the Secretary of State’s revocation process. A notary or notary’s representative must deliver all of the notarial records and papers to the clerk of the county in which the notary’s current oath of office is on file within 30 days. The notary public seal must be destroyed.

    Prohibited California notarial acts:
    These notary’s conducts provide a basis for disciplinary action
  • Preparing, drafting, selecting, or giving advice concerning legal documents
  • Performing acts that constitute the practice of law
  • Using the phrase “notario” or “notario publico” to advertise notary services
  • Advertising or promoting himself/herself as an immigration specialist or consultant
  • Charging more than the fee prescribed by law for notarial services
  • Notarizing a document without the signer being present at the time of the notarization
  • Authorizing a confidential marriage when the notary was not approved by the county clerk
  • Notarizing a signature on a document unless the signer’s identity has been established by satisfactory evidence
  • Certifying a copy of any document except a power of attorney
  • Signing under any other name than his/her commission name
  • Notarizing a document that is incomplete
  • Signing a notarial certificate that contains false statements
  • Notarizing a document in which the notary has a financial or beneficial interest or is named as a party to the transaction
  • Using the title “Notary Public” or the official seal, except for the execution of a lawful notarial act
  • Affixing his/her notary signature and seal to an incomplete notarial certificate
  • Using an interpreter to communicate with a document signer in the performance of a notarial act
  • Refusing to notarize in any lawful transaction upon payment of the fees allowed by law, whether or not the signer is a customer
  • Neglecting to administer an oath or affirmation when such is required by law
  • Notarizing his/her own signature
  • Affixing his/her notary signature and seal to a document that did not contain a notarial certificate.
  • Correcting a mistake in a notarial certificate after the completion of a notarial act.
  • Refusing to provide the Secretary of State certified copy of the notary’s journal when requested
  • Neglecting to complete the acknowledgment at the time the notary’s seal and signature are attached to the document
  • Executing a false notarial certificate
  • Making a false notarial certificate or writing containing statements known to the notary to be false
  • Fraudulently notarizing a document relating to a deed of trust
  • Unlawfully acting as a notary public when the person did not hold a current notary commission
  • Filing false or forged documents
  • Falsely obtaining personal information when performing a notarial act
  • Official notary misconduct:
    California notaries public, who commit official misconduct, may be subject to criminal liability, civil liability, disciplinary action, and other official matter for the following situations:
  • No acknowledgment may be taken or jurat executed on the basis of personal knowledge alone. A notary who violates this law may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
  • The certificate of acknowledgment must be executed under penalty of perjury. A notary who willfully states as true any material fact known to be false can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
  • Willful failure of a notary to surrender his or her notary journal to a peace officer may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.
  • A notary who fails to notify the Secretary of State of a change of address or a name change may be subject to a fine of up to $500.
  • A notary who fails to obtain a thumbprint as required by Government Code Section 8206 may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.
  • A notary who knowingly and willfully with intent to defraud performs any notarial act in relation to a deed of trust on real property with knowledge that the deed of trust contains any false statement or is forged, in whole or in part, is guilty of a felony.
  • A notary is guilty of a misdemeanor if he willfully fails to properly maintain a notary journal.
  • A notary is guilty of a misdemeanor if the notary fails to permit a lawful inspection or copying of the journal as required by law.
  • A notary is guilty of a misdemeanor if he fails to keep his seal under lock and key or willfully surrenders the seal to any person not authorized to possess it.
  • A notary’s who willfully fails to deliver his notarial records to the county clerk within the 30-day period after the commission has been revoked, or the notary resigns, or the commission expires may be guilty of a misdemeanor.
  • A notary’s willful failure to discharge fully and faithfully any duties or responsibilities is punishable by a civil fine not to exceed $1,500.
  • A notary public who has not complied with child or family support obligations may have his or her application denied or have his or her notary commission suspended.
  • A non-attorney notary public, who is an immigration consultant, and advertises and uses the term “notario publico” or “notario” in any document, shall be fined a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 per day for each violation.
  • A notary public who issues an acknowledgment certificate knowing it to be false is guilty of the crime of forgery.
  • A notary who executes a notarial certificate that is false is also guilty of a misdemeanor.
  • Notaries who engage in price gouging may be subject to their commission being revoked or suspended by the Secretary of State, as well as, other possible penalties.
  • California notary laws and regulations:
    California Government Code, Title 2, Division 1, Chapter 3 (Notaries Public)

     

    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=GOV&division=1.&title=2.&part=&chapter=3.&article=

     

    California Civil Code, Division 2, Part 4, Title 4, Chapter 4, Article 3 (Proof and Acknowledgment of Instruments)

     

    http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&division=2.&title=4.&part=4.&chapter=4.&article=3.

    California Notarial Certificates:
    Click here to view CA notarial certificates.

     

    Note: Effective January 1, 2015, California notaries must add a legible notice enclosed in a box at the top of each notarial certificate that states "A notary public or other officer completing this certificate verifies only the identity of the individual who signed the document to which this certificate is attached, and not the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of that document.”


    Revised: November 2017

    Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this page. Information this page is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.
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