How to Become a Notary in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Notary Process:
Are you interested in becoming a Rhode Island notary? Are you interested in generating extra income as a notary, starting your own Rhode Island notary business, adding a Rhode Island notary title to your resume, or helping to notarize documents for people in your community? Rhode Island notaries are appointed by the state to serve the public as unbiased impartial witnesses to document signing. The process to become a notary in Rhode Island is a straightforward process, and as long as you meet the state notary law requirements listed below, you can apply to become a Rhode Island notary. The American Association of Notaries can help you with the Rhode Island notary application process from start to finish, and when your application is approved, we can manufacture your notary stamp and notary supplies and provide you with support during your Rhode Island notary commission term so you can fulfill your notary duties accurately. The American Association of Notaries has been helping individuals become notaries since 1994. We can help you, too, become a notary!
This guide will help you understand:
- The process to become a Rhode Island notary
- Who can become a Rhode Island notary
- Basic Rhode Island notary duties
What are the qualifications to become a Rhode Island notary?
To become a notary in the State of Rhode Island, a notary applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least eighteen (18) years of age.
- Be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States.
- Be a resident of or have a place of employment or practice in Rhode Island.
- Be able to read and write English.
- Not be disqualified to receive a commission under §42-30.1-16.
- Demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the powers and duties pursuant to the requirements of this chapter.
- Be an attorney in good standing applying as a member of the RI Bar Association; or
- Be a certified public accountant in good standing applying as a certified Rhode Island licensee.
What is the process to become a Rhode Island notary?
In order to become a Rhode Island notary public and receive a Rhode Island notary public commission, a notary applicant must:
- Meet the eligibility requirements provided in the next section.
- Take the “Notary Knowledge Today” assessment at the RI Department of State’s website.
- Complete and print the notary application form.
- Take the oath of office before a notary public and complete the certificate.
- Pay the $80 application filing fee, payable to the RI Department of State.
- Mail or bring the completed notary application to the RI Department of State.
Note. Every notary applicant (new or renewal) will be required to complete a qualification statement and disclose any criminal convictions involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit. Attorneys and certified public accountants are required to present with their notary applications a certified copy of their Certificate of Admission to the Rhode Island Bar or Certificate of Public Accountancy.
Can a non-resident become a notary in Rhode Island?
Yes. Nonresidents who have a place of employment or practice in Rhode Island may apply for a Rhode Island notary public commission (RIGL 42-30.1-15[b]). In addition, “a member in good standing of the Rhode Island Bar Association and certified public accountants under §5-3.1-5, shall, regardless of residence, be appointed a notary public commission upon application and presentment of a certified copy of their certificate of admission to the bar or certificate of public accountancy” (RIGL 42-30.1-15[c]).
How much does it cost to become a notary in Rhode Island?
In the process of becoming a notary public in Rhode Island, a notary applicant will pay for the following expenses: (1) the $80 fee to process the application for appointment or reappointment; and (2) a notary stamp. A notary who wants to heighten and improve his or her performance as a notary public may also wish to pay for: (1) a journal to record all the notarial acts he or she performs in adherence with the recommendations of the Governor’s Executive Order (EO Sec. 3[e]); (2) a notary surety bond to protect the public and document signers from financial damages caused by the notary public; and (3) an errors and omissions insurance policy for the notary’s own protection against liability.
How do I renew my Rhode Island notary commission?
Approximately two months prior to the notary commission expiration date, the RI Department of State mails out a courtesy renewal notice to a notary’s address of record. The renewal application must be received in the RI Department of State before the notary’s commission expiration date in order to maintain the same expiration month and day. Failure to return the renewal application form before the expiration date will result in a new commission expiration date, and the application will be considered “new” and must meet all the requirements for a new commission application. Renewing notaries must: (1) review the RIGL §42-30.1 and the 2019 Standards of Conduct for changes to the Rhode Island’s notary laws; (2) find the notary’s ID number; (3) complete and print the Notary Renewal Form; (4) appear before a notary public to have an oath of office notarized and complete the certificate; (5) pay the $80 application fee; and (6) mail or bring the renewal application to the RI Department of State. If the renewal is submitted on time, the notary public will retain his or her original notary ID number.
NOTE: If the renewing notary is applying as a Rhode Island attorney or CPA, the notary must include a copy of the notary’s RI Bar Association or RI Board of Accountancy membership card. “Every notary public appointed by the commissioning officer and not reappointed may continue to officiate for a space of thirty (30) days after the date on which his or her commission expires” (RIGL 42-30.1-15[g]).
Are there any exams or notary courses required to become a Rhode Island notary public or to renew my Rhode Island notary public commission?
Yes, all new notary applicants seeking a commission as a Rhode Island notary public must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the powers and duties of a notary public (RIGL 42-30.1-15.). The RI Department of State’s website provides the “Notary Knowledge Today” assessment that consists of a multi-question tool available to help notary applicants fulfil this legal requirement for a notary public commission. A score of 80% or higher demonstrates sufficient knowledge and satisfies the legal requirements for a Rhode Island notary public commission. Notary applicants who receive a score of less than 80% are strongly encouraged to review the Notary Public Manual and, if necessary, take the assessment again. Notarial practices in the State of Rhode Island are governed by RIGL §42-30.1 and the 2019 Standards of Conduct for Notaries Public in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Can I perform electronic notarization in Rhode Island?
Yes. Effective January 1, 2019, the State of Rhode Island enacted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, allowing notaries public to obtain an electronic signature and electronic seal to notarize electronic records in the physical presence of the individual seeking the electronic notarization. In accordance with the provisions of RIGL 42-30.1-14, a notary public may perform electronic notarial acts on or involving an electronic record by using a tamper-evident technology approved by the Rhode Island Department of State. Before a notary public performs the notary’s initial notarial act with respect to an electronic record, a notary public must: (1) register with the Rhode Island Department of State to perform notarial acts with respect to electronic records; (2) identify the technology the notary public intends to use with respect to an electronic record; and (3) make sure the technology the notary has selected conforms to the standards established by the RI Department of State. “All requirements and elements of paper-based notarizations apply to electronic notarizations” (EO Sec. 3[m]). The liability, sanctions, and remedies of the improper performance of electronic notarial acts are the same as described and provided by law for improper performance of paper-based notarial acts. Notaries may apply to perform electronic notarizations at the time of the application of appointment as a notary public, or at the time of the renewal application process, or by submitting the Notary Public Information Update form. Notaries should refer to the State of Rhode Island Electronic Notarization Standards for procedures and specific requirements before performing their initial electronic notarial acts.
Can I perform remote (online) notarizations in Rhode Island?
No. “If a notarial act relates to a statement made in, or a signature executed upon, a record, the individual making the statement or executing the signature shall appear personally before the notarial officer” (RIGL 42-30.1-5). The 2019 Governor’s Executive Order definitions include, “Personal appearance” to mean that the principal and the notary public are physically close enough to see, hear, communicate with and hand identification documents to each other” (EO Sec. 2[j]). The Rhode Island notary statute requires a document signer to appear personally before a notary public and be physically close enough to see, hear, communicate, and share identification credentials without the use of electronic devices such as telephones, computers, video cameras, or video conferences during the entire performance of the notarial act. Therefore, Rhode Island notaries are prohibited from performing remote online notarizations.
How long is the term of a notary public commission in Rhode Island?
The term of office of a Rhode Island notary public is four years commencing with the date specified in the commission. A notary’s commission may be affected by, suspended, revoked, or cancelled for the following reasons: (1) the notary resigns; (2) the notary dies; (3) the notary is no longer a resident of Rhode Island; (4) a nonresident notary no longer has a place of employment or practice in Rhode Island; (5) the notary is no longer a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States; (6) the notary is convicted of a felony; or (7) an attorney-notary or an accountant-notary is no longer legally certified.
Is a Rhode Island notary bond required to become a notary in Rhode Island?
No. A surety bond is not a statutory requirement for a new applicant seeking an appointment as a notary public or for a renewing notary in the state of Rhode Island.
Do I need a Rhode Island notary errors and omission insurance?
A Rhode Island errors and omissions insurance policy is optional. However, the American Association of Notaries strongly recommends that Rhode Island notaries public obtain errors and omissions insurance for their personal protection against liability. 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. An E&O policy customarily covers legal fees and damages based on the coverage a Rhode Island notary public selects.
Where can I perform notarial acts in Rhode Island?
A Rhode Island notary public has statewide jurisdiction and may perform notarial acts in any county anywhere within the geographic borders of the state of Rhode Island. Likewise, a Rhode Island notary may not perform notarial acts outside Rhode Island.
Who appoints Rhode Island notaries public?
The Governor of Rhode Island is the “commissioning officer” (RIGL 42.30.1-2). The
Governor’s Executive Order “Standards of Conduct for Notary Public in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” will be considered by the Governor in the appointment, reappointment, and removal of notaries public from their commissions (EO Sec. 1a). The “commissioning agency” is the Rhode Island Department of State. The RI Department of State administers the application process, regulates notaries, maintains records on notaries, and authenticates acts. Use the following information to contact the RI Department of State:
Rhode Island Department of State
Business Services Division/Notary
148 W. River Street
Providence, RI 02904-2615
Office of the Governor
82 Smith Street
Providence, RI 02903
Do I need to purchase a notary stamp in Rhode Island?
Yes. Rhode Island notary statute requires all notaries public to use an official stamp when notarizing documents. Section 42-30.1-13 of the Rhode Island General Laws provides the legal specifications regarding the layout and the information required on all official seals.
Dimensions: The stamp must be in round (circular) or rectangular form with an edge border surrounding the required elements of the stamp.
Required Elements: The Rhode Island official stamp must contain the following elements:
- The notary public’s name exactly as indicated on the notary’s commission
- The words “Notary Public”
- Jurisdiction (e.g., Rhode Island or State of Rhode Island)
Section 42-30.1-13 states that the official stamp: (1) be capable of being copied together with the record to which it is affixed or attached or with which it is logically associated; and (2) contain other information required by the rules of the commissioning agency. “The stamp may also include the notary’s identification number and commission expiration date” (EO Sec. 3[e]). “This section shall not preclude a notarial officer who is a member of the general assembly in this state from notarizing a document without the use of a stamp on the floor of the general assembly during open session” (RIGL 42-30.1-13). “For notaries who have an embosser and wish to continue using it, they must render the seal with the ability to be photocopied and/or scanned” (RI Department of State’s Notary Public Manual).
Is a notary journal required in Rhode Island?
No. The Rhode Island notary statute does not require Rhode Island notaries public to record the notarial acts they perform in a journal. However, the Governor’s Executive Order Standards of Conduct recommends that Rhode Island notaries keep a journal of notarial acts as their own “standard operating procedure” when notarizing instruments. “A notary may find the use of a “journal of notarial acts” to be a beneficial tool” (EO Sec. 3[f]). While a journal is not required by state notary law, the American Association of Notaries encourages Rhode Island notaries to maintain a permanent, paper-bound journal with numbered pages to create and preserve a chronological record of every notarial act performed as a protective measure against liability. For Rhode Island notary supplies, visit the American Association of Notaries website at www.usnotaries.com, call 800.721.2663, or click here.
How much can a Rhode Island notary charge for performing notarial acts?
Rhode Island notary fees are not set by state notary statute. However, the Governor’s Executive Order “Standards of Conduct for Rhode Island Notaries” states, “A notary public may charge a fee not to exceed $5 per document/notarization; travel fees must be equal to or less than the then effective federal mileage rate as issued by the Internal Revenue Service. All fees must be posted in a conspicuous place in the notary's place of business or upon request, fees must be disclosed to any person utilizing the services of the notary” (EO Sec. 3[c]).
What notarial acts can a Rhode Island notary public perform?
A Rhode Island notary public is authorized to perform the following notarial acts (RIGL 42-30.1-2):
- Take acknowledgments
- Administer oaths or affirmations
- Take verifications upon oath or affirmation
- Witness or attest a signature
- Certify or attest a copy
- Protest instruments
- Take depositions as prescribed by law
- Issue subpoenas to summon witnesses (RIGL 9-17-3)
How do I update my address for my Rhode Island notary commission?
Rhode Island notaries are required to report a change in their residence to the Rhode Island Department of State within ten days by completing and printing the Notary Public Information Update Form (EO Sec. 5). There is no fee for updating a notary public’s address information.
Do I have to change my name on my notary commission in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island notaries are required to notify the Rhode Island Department of State within ten days if they lawfully change their names during the term of their notary commissions (EO Sec. 5). A Rhode Island notary is required to report his or her name change by completing and printing the Notary Public Information Update Form, which must be notarized by a Rhode Island notary public. There is no fee for updating a notary public’s information. A new commission will be issued and mailed to the notary public to his or her address of record once the completed form is received by the Department of State.
Revised: October 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 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.