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How to Become a Pennsylvania Notary


The Pennsylvania Notary Process:


Are you interested in becoming a Pennsylvania notary? Are you interested in generating extra income, starting your own Pennsylvania notary business, adding a notary title to your resume, or helping people in your community? The State of Pennsylvania appoints notaries to serve the public as unbiased impartial witnesses to document signing. Becoming a notary in Pennsylvania is a straightforward process, and as long as you meet the eligibility requirements listed below, you can apply to become a Pennsylvania notary. The American Association of Notaries has been helping individuals become notaries since 1994.

 

This guide will help you understand:

  1. Who can become a Pennsylvania notary
  2. The process to become a Pennsylvania notary
  3. Basic Pennsylvania notarial duties

What are the qualifications to become a Pennsylvania notary?


To become a Pennsylvania notary public, a notary applicant must meet the following requirements:    

 

  1. Be at least 18 years of age.
  2. Be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States.
  3. Be a resident of Pennsylvania or have a place of employment or practice in this Commonwealth.
  4. Be able to read and write English.
  5. Not be disqualified from receiving a commission under Section 323 (relating to sanctions).
  6. Have passed the examination required under Section 322a (relating to examination, basic education and continuing education).
  7. Comply with other requirement established by the Department of State by regulation as necessary to ensure the competence, integrity, and qualifications of a notary public and to ensure the proper performance of notarial acts.

 

Note: The following persons are NOT eligible to hold the office of notary public: (1) any member of the Congress of the United States, and any person, whether an officer, a subordinate officer or agent holding any office or appointment of profit or trust under the legislative, executive, or judicial departments of the government of the United States, to which a salary, fees, or perquisites are attached; or (2) any member of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.

What is the process to become a Pennsylvania notary?


To become a Pennsylvania notary public and receive a Pennsylvania notary public commission, a notary applicant must: 

 

  1. Meet the eligibility requirements provided in the previous section.
  2. Complete a pre-approved, three-hour notary public basic course within the six months preceding the submission of the application; this also applies to those notaries previously “grandfathered” by the Tritt v. Cortes court ruling.
  3. Submit evidence with the application for appointment or reappointment of passing the examination, a copy of the course completion certificate, and a $42 filing fee to the Department of State by mail or online. Click here for the initial appointment or reappointment process, apply online, or download an application form.
  4. Obtain a $10,000 bond after receiving an approval notice from the Department of State that the commission certificate has been issued and sent to the Recorder of Deeds in the county where the notary will maintain an office.
  5. Register an official signature with the prothonotary of the county where the notary will maintain an office.
  6. Take and subscribe an oath of office, and record the bond, commission, and oath of office with the Recorder of Deeds in the county where the notary will maintain an office within 45 days from the date of appointment. Once these requirements are met, the Recorder of Deeds delivers the new commission to the notary. If these requirements are not met within the 45-day period, the notary public commission becomes null and void. (Extensions will not be given.)
  7. File a copy of the bond and oath of office with the Department of State within ninety days of the recording requirements (57 Pa C.S. §321[d.2][3]).

Can a non-resident become a notary in Pennsylvania?

Yes. A nonresident may apply to become a Pennsylvania notary public if the nonresident meets the following requirements (57 Pa C.S. §321a):  

 

  1. Have a place of employment or practice in Pennsylvania.
  2. Satisfy the same qualifications as Pennsylvania residents, setting aside the residency requirements.
  3. Follow the same notary public application for appointment process and procedures as Pennsylvania residents.
  4. Complete at least three hours of approved notary education, which is required for all applicants applying for the initial appointment as notary public and reappointment.
  5. Pass an examination for applicants who do not hold a current notary public commission.
  6. Continuously maintain a place of employment or practice in Pennsylvania.
  7. Relinquish the notary’s commission if the nonresident notary ceases to have a place of employment or practice in Pennsylvania.

How much does it cost to become a notary in Pennsylvania?

A Pennsylvania notary applicant’s expenses may include the cost for the following: (1) a $42 filing fee to process an application for appointment or reappointment as a notary public; (2) a $10,000 surety bond; (3) an official stamp; (4) a notary journal; (5) the mandatory notary public education course; (6) the mandatory examination for all initial notary public appointments; and (7) an E&O insurance policy if a notary public wishes to purchase one for his or her protection against liability.

How do I renew my Pennsylvania notary commission?

Pennsylvania notaries must file an application for reappointment with the Department of State at least two to three months prior to the expiration of their current notary public commissions to ensure uninterrupted commissioned status. Notaries applying for reappointment as notaries public must follow the same process and procedures as required for a new application for appointment as a notary public including: (1) completing a three-hour notary public continuing education course approved by the Department of State within the six-month period immediately preceding the application for reappointment; (2) obtaining a $10,000 surety bond; (3) submitting an application for reappointment to the Department of State either by mail or by applying online. All certificates for the approved continuing education course and examination (if required) must be valid at the time of the submission of the application for reappointment. Renewal notaries should allow at least one month for processing after submitting a completed application for reappointment to the Department of State. An online application for reappointment may be processed at the following web page: https://www.notaryreg.pa.gov/Pages/Home.aspx.

Are there any exams or notary courses required to become a Pennsylvania notary public or to renew my Pennsylvania notary public commission?

Yes. All new applicants seeking appointments as notaries public, including notaries reapplying for a subsequent commission, are required to complete  a three-hour approved notary education course within the six months immediately preceding the application for appointment or reappointment.  An approved notary education course may be comprised of either interactive or classroom instruction and must contain a core curriculum covering the duties and responsibilities of the office of notary public and electronic notarization. The continuing education courses approved for notaries applying for reappointment are more advanced in content and are designed to be relevant for the notary public who has already completed the basic education course and has encountered more complicated documents and advanced notary issues in the course of a previous notary public commission. There is no exemption to the mandatory notary education requirement, and that includes those notaries previously “grandfathered” from having to complete the education requirement by the Tritt v. Cortes court ruling. Please see Notary Education Providers on the Department of State’s website for a list of approved notary public education course providers.

 

Exam. All applicants who do not hold a current and unexpired notary public commission at the time their application is received by the Department of State must pass an examination administered by the Department of State’s examination vendor, Pearson VUE. This includes applicants who have never held notary commissions and all applicants who previously held notary commissions but whose commissions have lapsed or expired at the time their application for reappointment is received by the Department of State. Upon the Department of State’s approval of both the initial application for appointment and reappointment as a notary public, applicants who are required to take the examination will be provided with information via email on Pearson VUE’s computer-based testing procedures and sites. The cost of the examination is $65 per test. Notary applicants have six months from the time they are authorized to sit for the examination to successfully pass the examination. A notary applicant may take it as many times as needed within the six-month period to pass the examination. Examination results will be electronically reported to the Department of State by Pearson VUE.  All applicants completing the examination successfully will be appointed as notaries public by the Department of State.  The applicants who are unable to pass the examination within the six-month period will be required to retake the basic notary education course and reapply for appointment and commission to the Department of State.  

Can I perform electronic notarization in Pennsylvania?

Yes. The State of Pennsylvania has enacted the “Uniform Electronic Transactions Act,” which authorizes a notary 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. Moreover, the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (Title 57, Chapter 3, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes), effective October 26, 2017, provides fundamental provisions pertaining to the notarial acts with respect to electronic records. Section 320 states that before a notary public performs the initial notarial act with respect to an electronic record, he or she must notify the Department of State that he or she will be performing notarial acts with respect to electronic records and identify each approved tamper evident technology he or she intends to use. An electronic notary must use an electronic notarization solution approved by the Department of State.

 

The Electronic Notarization Program for becoming an Electronic Notary in Pennsylvania:

 

  • Step 1. The duly appointed and commissioned notary public in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who holds a current and unrestricted commission completes the Electronic Notary Public Application and submits it to the Department of State. (Note: There are no requirements for an education course or bond to become an e-notary beyond the bond and education course requirements for being appointed and commissioned as a Pennsylvania notary public.)
  • Step 2. If approved to act as an electronic notary, the applicant will be notified by an email from the Department of State that authorizes the notary to participate in the Electronic Notarization Program until the end of the notary’s current four-year commission as a traditional notary public. The notary has 45 days from the date of the approval email to complete the process for obtaining an electronic notary solution, or the approval becomes null and void. Notaries with less than six months remaining in their current commissions will not be approved and should wait to apply until they receive a renewed commission. 
  • Step 3. The approved electronic notary appears in-person before a participating county Recorder of Deeds and presents the Electronic Notary approval email and satisfactory evidence of identity to the Recorder.  The Recorder of Deeds enters the identification information for the notary into the shared Electronic Notarization Program database.
  • Step 4. The approved electronic notary is notified via email to log onto the Department of State’s website at https://www.notaries.pa.gov to select an approved electronic notary solution provider. The electronic notary may select more than one approved electronic notary solution provider from the Department’s List of Approved Electronic Notarization Solution Providers.
  • Step 5. The Department of State notifies the selected electronic notarization solution provider(s) that the Pennsylvania notary is authorized to receive an electronic notary solution and has selected their solution.
  • Step 6. Once an electronic notary solution has been issued to the notary by the approved electronic notary solution provider, the solution provider will notify the Department of State and the electronic notary’s record will be updated showing that particular electronic notary solution has been issued to that e-notary.
  • Step 7. The approved electronic notary may now use his or her electronic notary solution until the end of the notary’s traditional current four-year commission or for a lesser period as necessitated by the particular electronic notary solution, whichever is shorter.

 

First and foremost, the Pennsylvania notary statute requires that that the document signer personally appear before the notary public (face-to-face) at the time of the notarial act (57 Pa.C.S. §306). This means the signer(s) and the notary public are physically close enough to see, hear, communicate, and give identification credentials to 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. 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, the personal appearance before the notary public. Personal appearance does not include: (1) appearance by video technology, even if the video is live or synchronous; or (2) appearance by audio technology. A person may not require a notary public to perform a notarial act with respect to an electronic record with a technology that the notary has not selected. The Department of State has not adopted regulations or established standards and procedures for electronic notarizations. Click here for further information.

Can I perform remote (online) notarizations in Pennsylvania?

No. The state of Pennsylvania has not enacted/adopted notary statutes, regulations, or established standards and procedures for remote online notarizations. The Pennsylvania notary statutes require that a principal signer personally appear before a Pennsylvania notary public (face-to-face) for any notarial act to be performed in that signer’s name. This means the principal and the notary public are physically close enough to see, hear, communicate, and give identification credentials to 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. The Pennsylvania notary statutes do not authorize Pennsylvania notaries public to witness an act through video conference or other electronic means where the person making the act is in a physical location different from the notary public or otherwise not in the physical presence of the notary public. Therefore, Pennsylvania notaries are prohibited from performing online webcam notarizations, which are illegal in Pennsylvania.

How long is the term of a notary public commission in Pennsylvania?

The term of office for a Pennsylvania notary public is four years commencing from the date of appointment. However, a notary’s commission may be rendered void: (1) by resignation; (2) by death; (3) by revocation; (4) when a notary public is no longer a resident of Pennsylvania; (5) when a nonresident notary ceases to have a place of employment or practice in this Commonwealth; (6) when a notary is no longer a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States; (7) when a notary no longer has the capability to read and/or write English; and (8) when a notary public becomes disqualified pursuant to Section 323 [relating to sanctions] (57 Pa C.S. §323a).

Is a Pennsylvania notary bond required to become a notary in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Within 45 days after the date of appointment or reappointment, all new applicants seeking an appointment as a notary public and renewing notaries are required to obtain a surety bond in the amount of $10,000 (57 Pa C.S. §321a). The surety bond must: (1) be executed and issued by an insurance company authorized to do business in Pennsylvania; (2) cover a notary public’s acts performed during the term of the notary public commission; and (3) be in the form prescribed by the Department of State. A surety or issuing entity must notify the Department of State of a payment made under a notary’s bond not later than thirty days after making a payment to a claimant under the bond. A notary public may perform notarial acts in Pennsylvania only during the period in which a valid bond is on file with the Department of State. 

Do I need a Pennsylvania notary errors and omission insurance?

An errors and omissions insurance policy is optional in Pennsylvania. A commission to act as a notary public does not provide a notary public any immunity or benefit conferred by law of this Commonwealth on public officials or employees (57 Pa C.S. §321[f][2]). The American Association of Notaries strongly recommends that Pennsylvania notaries obtain an errors and omissions insurance policy for their protection against liability. Errors and omissions insurance is designed to protect a notary public in the event he or she commits a negligent act or makes an unintentional error or omission while acting in the notary’s official capacity. Such unpremeditated errors and omissions may well result in financial or other type of loss to the public or a client for which a notary public is sued for recovery. An E&O policy customarily covers legal fees and damages based on the coverage a Pennsylvania notary selects.

Where can I perform notarial acts in Pennsylvania?

A Pennsylvania notary public has statewide jurisdiction and may perform notarial acts in all counties within the geographic borders in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Likewise, a Pennsylvania notary may not perform notarial acts outside of the state of Pennsylvania.

Who appoints Pennsylvania notaries public?

The Pennsylvania Department of State appoints notaries public, administers the commissioning process, retains the records on notaries, and maintains an electronic database of active notaries and electronic notaries. To contact the Department of State, use the following information:


Pennsylvania Department of State
Division of Commissions
Legislation and Notaries
210 North Office Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 787-5280

https://www.dos.pa.gov/OtherServices/Notaries/Pages/default.aspx

Do I need to purchase a notary stamp in Pennsylvania?

Yes. The Pennsylvania notary statute requires all notaries public to use an inked rubber stamp to authenticate all their official acts (57 Pa C.S. §317).  Section 317 provides the legal specifications regarding the layout and the information required on a notary’s official stamp.

Dimensions: The rubber stamp must be rectangular, with a maximum height of 1 inch and width of 3½ inches, with a plain border.

 

Required Elements: The official stamp must show clearly in the following order:

 

  • The words “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”
  • The words “Notary Seal”
  • The name as it appears on the commission of the notary public and the words “Notary Public”
  • The name of the county in which the notary public maintains an office
  • The date the notary public’s commission expires
  • The notary commission number

 

Note: The stamp will no longer contain the municipality in which the notary maintains an office. The official stamp must be capable of being copied together with the record to which it is affixed or attached or with which it is logically associated. “Notaries may use an embosser in addition to the rubber stamp seal. However, the embosser is optional and may not replace the rubber stamp seal” (website, “Notary Public Equipment”). There are no prescribed dimensions provided for the embosser. A notary public must provide a written statement to the Department of State within 15 days of discovering that his or her rubber stamp has been lost, stolen, misplaced, destroyed or otherwise made unavailable and provide the last date the notary discovered the stamping device was lost, stolen, misplaced, destroyed, or otherwise made unavailable. DO NOT send an old notary stamp to the Department of State unless the notary’s commission has been suspended or revoked or the notary has been instructed or ordered to do so (website, “Notary Public Equipment”).

Is a notary journal required in Pennsylvania?

Yes. Pennsylvania notary statute requires all notaries public to record in chronological order all notarial acts performed in a journal created either on a tangible medium or in an electronic format (57 Pa C.S. §317a). If the journal is maintained in a tangible medium, it must be a bound register with numbered pages. If the journal is maintained in an electronic format, it must be in a tamper-evident electronic format complying with the regulations of the Department of State (57 Pa C.S. §317[b]). A notary public may maintain a separate journal for tangible records and for electronic records. For Pennsylvania notary supplies, visit the American Association of Notaries website at www.usnotaries.com, call 800.721.2663, click here.

How much can a Pennsylvania notary charge for performing notarial acts?

Pennsylvania notary fees are set by the Department of State by regulation (4 Pa. Code §161.1). The maximum allowable fees that a Pennsylvania notary public may charge for notarial acts are listed below:

 

  • Executing an affidavit (no matter how many signatures): $5
  • Taking an acknowledgment: $5; for each additional name: $2 
  • Administering an oath, per person: $5 
  • Taking verification on oath or affirmation (no matter how many signatures): $5
  • Witnessing or attesting a signature (per signature): $5
  • Certifying or attesting a copy or deposition, per certified copy: $5
  • Noting a protest, per page: $3

 

Note: Pursuant to the Department of State’s regulations of August 2016, a Pennsylvania notary public: (1) must display a list of notarial fees in a conspicuous place in the notary’s place of business; (2) may charge a reasonable clerical or administrative fee for services related to a notarial act, such as copying, postage, travel, telephone calls, etc.; (3) must, if he or she charges a clerical or administrative fee, inform the customer of the amount of each fee prior to performing the service; (4) must provide an itemized receipt for all fees charged; (5) must separately itemize clerical and administrative fees, if charged, in the notary journal; and (6) must not charge or receive a notarial fee in excess of the fee fixed by the Department of State. The fees for notarial services are presumed to be the property of the notary public and do not belong to the entity that employs the notary public, unless mutually agreed to by the notary and the employer.

What notarial acts can a Pennsylvania notary public perform?

A Pennsylvania notary public is authorized to perform the following notarial acts (57 Pa.C.S. §302[4]):

 

  • Taking an acknowledgment
  • Administering an oath or affirmation
  • Taking a verification on oath or affirmation
  • Witnessing or attesting a signature
  • Certifying or attesting a copy or deposition
  • Noting a protest of a negotiable instrument

How do I update my address with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State?

A Pennsylvania notary public must notify the Department of State within thirty days of any change in the information on file with the Department of State, including the notary’s office address or home address. The notice of a change in address must be made in writing or by email and must include the effective date of the change. The Department of State has a Change of Address form on their web page to assist notaries to comply with this requirement. If the notary’s new office address is in a different county, the notary public must register the notary’s official signature in the prothonotary’s office of the new county within thirty days of moving into the new county. The notice of an address change may be filed with the Department of State’s online Change form system: http://www.dos.pa.gov/OtherServices/Notaries/NotaryServices/Pages/Update-Information-.aspx

Do I have to change my name on my notary commission in Pennsylvania?

A notary public must notify the Department of State within thirty days of any change in the information on file with the Department of State, including the notary’s legal name. The notice of a change in name must be on a form prescribed by the Department and accompanied by evidence of the name change (such as a marriage certificate, court order, or divorce decree).

 

Following notification to the Department of State, a notary public may: (1) use the new name or continue to perform notarial acts in the name in which the notary was commissioned until the expiration of the notary's commission term; or (2) change his or her commission name to the new name after submitting the required application for reappointment and the supporting documents to the Department of State. Before the notary uses the new name for the performance of notarial acts, the notary must register the new official signature with the prothonotary’s office of the county where the notary’s office address is located. The notary must also purchase a new rubber stamp seal. The notice of a name change may be filed with the Department of State’s online Change form system: http://www.dos.pa.gov/OtherServices/Notaries/NotaryServices/Pages/Update-Information-.aspx

Pennsylvania notarial certificates:

Click here to view Pennsylvania notarial certificates.

 

Revised: December 2019

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.

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.