How to Become a Notary in California
The California Notary Process:
Are you interested in becoming a California notary? Are you interested in generating extra income, starting your own California notary business, adding a notary title to your resume, or helping people in your community? The California Secretary of State appoints notaries to serve the public as unbiased impartial witnesses to document signing. Becoming a notary in California is a straightforward process, and as long as you meet the eligibility requirements listed below, you can apply to become a California notary. The American Association of Notaries has been helping individuals become notaries since 1994.
This guide will help you understand:
- Who can become a California notary
- The process to become a California notary
- Basic California notarial duties
What are the qualifications to become a California notary?
To become a California notary public, a notary applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Be a legal resident of California.
- Complete a six-hour course of study approved by the Secretary of State.
- Satisfactorily complete and pass a written examination prescribed by the Secretary of State.
- Pass a background check by the FBI and the California Department of Justice.
What is the process to become a California notary?
In order to become a California notary and receive a California notary commission, a notary applicant must:
- Meet the eligibility requirements provided in the previous section.
- Satisfactorily complete a six-hour course of study approved by the Secretary of State before filing the application, which will generate a Proof of Completion certificate.
- Register for the notary public examination by contacting CPS HR Consulting.
- Bring to the exam site: (a) a current photo ID; (b) a completed Notary Public Application form; (c) a 2” x 2” color passport photo of the applicant; (d) the Proof of Completion certificate; (e) the registration confirmation letter; and (f) the $40 exam and application fee, payable to the Secretary of State.
- Pass the exam with a score of at least 70; after such, the application will be transmitted to the Secretary of State for processing.
- After passing the exam, submit one set of fingerprints at an electronic Live Scan site, which will be sent to the California Department of Justice and to the FBI. Download the Request for Live Scan Service (PDF) form, or visit the Secretary of State’s website.
- Bring to the Live Scan site: (a) a completed Request for Live Scan Service (PDF) form; (b) a current photo ID; and (c) a fingerprint processing fee and an additional rolling fee to be verified by Live Scan site. (After the background check, the report will be transmitted electronically by the DOJ to the Secretary of State.)
- After you have passed the background criminal check and the application has been approved, the Secretary of State will send out a notary public commission packet that includes: (a) a cover letter with instructions; (b) filing instructions; (c) a notary public commission certificate; (d) two Notary Public Oath and Certificate of Filing forms; (e) a Certificate of Authorization to Manufacture Notary Public Seals; and (f) a list of Authorized Manufacturers of Notary Public Seals.
- Purchase a $15,000 surety bond.
- 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 thirty calendar days from the commencement date of the commission. (The county clerk retains the original oath and sends a copy of the oath to the Secretary of State.)
- Purchase a notary seal and journal before performing notarial acts.
Note: If the applicant fails to file the oath and bond within the thirty-calendar-day time period, the applicant must reapply for a new commission.
Can a non-resident become a notary in California?
No. A non-resident who is not a legal resident of California does not qualify for a California notary public commission.
How much does it cost to become a notary in California?
A California notary applicant’s expenses may include the cost for the following: (1) an approved six-hour course of study; (2) a $40 fee for exam and application; (3) a fingerprint processing fee and an additional rolling fee for a background check; (4) a $15,000 surety bond; (5) an official seal; (6) a journal; and (7) an E&O insurance policy if a notary wishes to obtain one for his or her own personal protection against liability.
How do I renew my California notary commission?
A California notary public who holds a current notary public commission and who has completed an approved six-hour course at least one time is required to take and satisfactorily complete an approved three-hour refresher course prior to applying for reappointment as a notary public. The three-hour refresher course can only be used to satisfy the education requirement if the notary is applying for reappointment as a notary public before the notary’s current commission expires. The Secretary of State recommends that a California notary seeking reappointment take the notary exam at least six months prior to the expiration date of his or her commission to avoid a break in the commission term. The test results are valid for one year from the date of the examination. All individuals appointed as notaries public are required to undergo a background check by the California Department of Justice and the FBI for each and every notary public commission. The requirements for reappointment are somewhat similar to the prerequisites for the initial application for appointment as a notary public. If all the renewing application requirements are met, the new notary public commission will be issued thirty days prior to the expiration date of the notary’s current commission. Download a Request for Live Scan Service (PDF) form as required. To initiate the reappointment process, visit the Secretary of State’s website.
Are there any exams or notary courses required to become a California notary public or to renew my California notary public commission?
Yes. Any person seeking appointment as a notary public must satisfactorily complete a Secretary-of-State-approved six-hour course of study prior to appointment. California notaries who hold a current notary public commission and who have completed an approved six-hour course of study at least once must satisfactorily complete an approved three-hour refresher course prior to reappointment as a notary public. An approved three-hour refresher course is only acceptable if the notary public applies for reappointment before the expiration of the notary’s current commission. Upon completion of the required educational course of study, the applicant will receive a Proof of Completion certificate, which is valid for two years from the date of issuance. Upon obtaining a Proof of Completion certificate, the applicant must register for the notary public examination by contacting CPS HR Consulting. Registration for the examination can be made online or by contacting CPS HR Consulting by calling (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). After meeting all the statutory educational requirements, all persons seeking appointment and reappointment as notaries public may proceed to submit fingerprints via Live Scan to undergo a background check by the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To register for a California Notary Public examination online, click here.
Can I perform electronic notarization in California?
Yes. The California Legislature enacted the “Uniform Electronic Transactions Act” (CC §§1633.1 through 1633.17), Division 3, Part 2, Title 2.5 of the Civil Code of the State of California, which authorizes California notaries public to obtain an electronic or digital signature and electronic seal to notarize electronic documents in the physical presence of the individual seeking the notarization. First and foremost, the California notary statute stipulates that the document signer must physically appear before the notary public at the time of the notarial act with respect to electronic records. This means the signer(s) and the notary are physically close enough to see and hear each other, communicate, and share identification credentials with 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 electronic notarization. All the same rules, standards, practices, and regulations that apply to a traditional paper notarization also apply to an electronically signed document including, but not limited to, personal appearance before the notary public. In addition, this act specifies that if a law requires that a signature be notarized, the requirement is satisfied with respect to an electronic signature if an electronic record includes, in addition to the electronic signature to be notarized, the electronic signature of a notary public together with all other information required to be included in a notarization by other applicable law. Therefore, the notary’s electronic seal must reproduce the statutorily required elements of the notary’s official seal. Moreover, the liability, sanctions, and remedies for improper performance of electronic notarizations are the same under the state laws for the improper performance of notarial acts performed by traditional notaries public.
Can I perform remote (online) notarizations in California?
No. The State of California has not enacted/adopted notary statutes, regulations, or established standards and procedures for remote online notarizations. The California notary statute requires that a principal personally appear (face-to-face) before a California notary public when any notarial act, such as an acknowledgment or jurat, is performed in that signer’s name. This means that the principal and the notary public are physically close enough to see and hear each other, communicate, and share identification credentials with each other without the use of electronic devices such as telephones, computers, video cameras, or video conferences during the entire performance of the notarial act. Web-based platforms that purport to allow a person to submit copies of identification over the Internet and to use a webcam in lieu of a personal appearance in front of a notary public (e.g., appearance via webcam) do not meet the statutory requirements for notarizations by California notaries. The California notary statute does not authorize a notary public to witness an act by means of communication technology such as live, two-way, audio-visual transmission or other electronic tools when the person making the act is at a physical location different from the notary public or otherwise not in the physical presence of the notary public for the performance of the notarial act or online notarization. Therefore, online webcam notarizations are invalid and illegal activities for California notaries public.
How long is the term of a notary public commission in California?
The term of office of a notary public is four years commencing with the date specified in the notary public commission (GC §8204). However, a notary’s commission may be rendered void: (1) by resignation, (2) by death, (3) by revocation, (4) when a notary ceases to be a legal resident of California; (5) when a notary is convicted of a felony offense; or (5) when a notary becomes disqualified for any of the reasons listed under GC §8214.1.
Is a California notary bond required to become a notary in California?
Yes. “Every person appointed a notary public shall execute an official bond in the sum of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000). The bond shall be in the form of a bond executed by an admitted surety insurer and not a deposit in lieu of bond” (GC §8212).
Do I need a California notary errors and omission insurance?
Errors and omissions insurance is optional and not required by state notary law. The American Association of Notaries highly recommends that California notaries public obtain an errors and omissions insurance policy for their personal protection against liability. Errors and omissions insurance is designed to protect notaries from liability against unintentional notarial mistakes or omissions that result in financial or other type of loss to the public or from a client who sues a notary public for recovery. An E&O policy customarily covers legal fees and damages based on the coverage a California notary public selects.
Where can I perform notarial acts in California?
California notaries public have statewide jurisdiction and may perform notarial acts anywhere within the geographic borders of the state of California (GC §8200). Likewise, California notaries may not perform notarial acts outside of California.
Who appoints California notaries public?
The California Secretary of State appoints and commissions California notaries public, administers the commissioning process, and maintains an electronic database of active notaries.
Contact information for the Secretary of State:
California Secretary of State
Notary Public Section
PO Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277-0001
Notary Public Section
1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Do I need to purchase a notary stamp in California?
Yes. The California notary statute requires every notary public to use a rubber-inked stamp or embosser to authenticate his or her notarial acts (GC 8207). Section 8207 provides the legal specifications regarding the layout and the information required on all official seals.
Dimensions: The seal must be either circular and not over 2 inches in diameter or rectangular and not more than 1 inch in width by 2½ inches in length, with a serrated or milled edge border, and shall contain the information required by law.
Required Elements: A notary public shall provide and keep an official seal, which shall clearly show, when embossed, stamped, impressed, or affixed to a document the following elements:
- The name of the notary
- The State Seal
- The words “Notary Public”
- The name of the county wherein the bond and oath of office are filed
- The date the notary public’s commission expires
- The sequential identification number assigned to the notary
- The sequential identification number assigned to the manufacturer or vendor
The seal of every notary public must be affixed by a seal press or stamp that will print or emboss a seal that can be legibly reproduced under photographic methods. The official seal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary. The notary’s seal is the exclusive property of the notary, and it must not be surrendered to an employer upon the termination of employment. The notary, or his or her representative, must destroy or deface the seal upon termination, resignation, or revocation of the notary’s commission.
Is a notary journal required in California?
Yes. California notary law requires each notary public to keep one active sequential journal at a time of all official acts performed as a notary public (GC §8206a). If the document to be notarized is a deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust, or other document affecting real property, or a power of attorney document, the notary public must require the party signing the document to place his or her right thumbprint or left thumb in the journal. The circumstances in which the notary public must relinquish the journal or permit inspection and copying of journal transactions and the procedures the notary must follow are set forth in Section 8206(d). A notary public is guilty of a misdemeanor if the notary willfully fails to properly maintain the notary’s journal. Within thirty days from the date the notary public commission is no longer valid, the notary must deliver all notarial journals, records, and papers to the county clerk’s office where the bond and oath are filed. The journal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public. The American Association of Notaries encourages California notaries to maintain a permanent, paper-bound journal with numbered pages to create and preserve a chronological record of every notarial act performed. Such a journal is designed to deter fraud as a protective measure against liability. For California notary supplies, visit the American Association of Notaries website at www.usnotaries.com, call (800) 721-2663, or click here.
How much can a California notary charge for performing notarial acts?
California notary fees are set by state notary statute (GC §8211). The fees charged by a notary public for the following notarial services must not exceed the fees prescribed by law, which include:
- Taking an acknowledgment - $15.00
- Executing the jurat - $15.00
- Administering an oath or affirmation - $15.00
- For certifying a copy of a power of attorney - $15.00
- Noting a protest - $15.00
- Taking of any deposition - $30.00
+ $7 for administering the oath to the witness
+ $7 for the certificate to the deposition
Note: No fee 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, allowance, compensation, insurance, or any other veteran’s benefit.
What notarial acts can a California notary public perform?
A California notary public is authorized to perform the following notarial acts (GC §8205a):
- Take acknowledgments and proofs
- Administer oaths and affirmations
- Take depositions and affidavits
- Certify copies of powers of attorney or copies of entries in the notary’s journal
- Note protests of negotiable instruments (only certain notary employees of financial institutions)
How do I update my address for my California notary commission?
The California notary statute requires a notary public 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 thirty days of the change. The notary’s written address change notification must include the notary’s commission name, commission number, commission expiration date, and the new business name and address. If a notary public transfers the principal place of business from one county to another, the notary public may elect to file a new oath of office and bond or a duplicate of the original bond with the county clerk to which the business was transferred in the new county. If the notary public elects to make a new filing, the notary must, within thirty days of the filing, obtain an official seal which must include the name of the county to which the notary has transferred (GC §8213[b]). However, filing a new oath and bond is optional. There is no fee for the processing of address notification with the Secretary of State. Once the Secretary of State has received and processed the notary’s oath of office filed in the new county, the notary will receive a certificate of authorization to purchase a new seal that reflects the new county. For an address change form, visit the Secretary of State’s website.
Note: A notary’s willful failure to notify the Secretary of State of a change of address shall be punishable as an infraction by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500) (GC §8213.5).
Do I have to change my name on my notary commission in California?
If a California notary public changes his or her name, the notary must complete a Name Change Application and file that application with the Secretary of State (GC §8213). Upon approval of the name change application form, the Secretary of State issues a commission that reflects the new name of the notary public. The term of the commission and commission number remains the same. Within thirty days after the issuance of the amended commission, the notary public must file a new oath office and a bond amendment with the clerk of the county in which the notary’s principal place of business is located. The amended commission with the name change takes effect the date the oath and amendment to the bond is filed with the county clerk. If the principal place of business address was changed in the name change application, either a new or duplicate of the original bond shall be filed with the county clerk with the amendment to the bond. Within thirty days of the filing, the notary public must obtain a new official seal that reflects the new name and the name of the county to which the notary has transferred, if applicable. If the notary fails to file his or her amended oath and bond within the thirty-day time limit, the name change will become void and the commission will revert back to the previous name and the notary will be required to submit another name change application. To download a Name Change Application form, or to visit the Secretary of State website, click here.
Note: A notary’s willful failure to notify the Secretary of State of a name change shall be punishable as an infraction by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500) (GC §8213.6).
California 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: January 2020
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 on 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 states if they have legal questions about how to perform notarial acts.
Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.