How to Become a Washington Notary
The Washington Notary Process:
Are you interested in becoming a Washington notary? Are you interested in generating extra income, starting your own Washington notary business, adding a notary title to your resume, or helping people in your community? The State of Washington appoints notaries to serve the public as unbiased impartial witnesses to document signing. Becoming a notary in Washington is a straightforward process, and as long as you meet the eligibility requirements listed below, you can apply to become a Washington notary. The American Association of Notaries has been helping individuals become notaries since 1994.
This guide will help you understand:
- Who can become a Washington notary
- The process to become a Washington notary
- Basic Washington notarial duties
What are the qualifications to become a Washington notary?
To become a Washington notary public, a notary applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least eighteen years of age.
- Be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States.
- Be a resident of Washington State or have a place of employment or practice in Washington.
- Be able to read and write English.
- Not be disqualified to receive a commission under RCW 42.45.210.
What is the process to become a Washington notary?
To become a Washington notary public and receive a Washington notary public commission, a notary applicant must:
- Meet the eligibility requirements provided in the previous section.
- Complete a Notary Public Commission Application (includes oath of office).
- Purchase a $10,000 surety bond.
- Have the oath of office notarized.
- Submit to the Department of Licensing the following: (a) the completed, signed application; (b) a copy of the signed $10,000 surety bond; (c) the signed, notarized oath of office; and (d) a $30 commission fee or a $45 commission fee with electronic endorsement payable to the Department of Licensing.
- Purchase an official seal upon receipt of the commission certificate.
To apply online:
- Log in or sign up to apply online.
- Prepare documents for upload: (a) electronic copy of the notarized oath of office form; (b) electronic copy of the signed $10,000 surety bond; (c) have the method of payment ready (Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit or debit card or bank account information); and (d) $30 for commission or $45 for commission with electronic endorsement.
Can a non-resident become a notary in Washington?
Yes. A non-resident may apply to become a Washington notary public if the non-resident meets the following requirements. A non-resident must:
- Have a place of employment or practice in Washington.
- Satisfy the same qualifications as Washington residents, setting aside the residency requirements.
- Submit a Notary Public Commission Application and comply with the same notary application process and procedures as Washington residents, including purchasing a $10,000 surety bond.
- Continuously maintain a place of employment or practice in Washington.
- Relinquish his or her notary commission if the non-resident notary ceases to have a place of employment or practice in Washington.
How much does it cost to become a notary in Washington?
A Washington notary applicant’s expenses may include the cost for the following: (1) a $30 fee to process an application for appointment or reappointment; (2) a $45 fee to process an application for appointment with electronic endorsement; (3) a $10,000 surety bond; (4) a notary stamp; (5) a notary journal; and (6) an E&O insurance policy if a notary wishes to purchase one for his or her personal protection against liability.
How do I renew my Washington notary commission?
Washington notaries may apply for reappointment as notaries public no earlier than 120 days before their commission expiration dates. To renew by mail, a notary public must submit to the Department of Licensing: (1) a completed, signed Notary Public Commission Renewal Application; (2) a copy of the signed $10,000 surety bond; and (3) a $30 renewal fee or $45 to add electronic notary endorsement. Notaries may also renew their notary commissions online. To renew a notary commission online, a notary public will need: (1) his or her license number; (2) an electronic copy of the signed $10,000 surety bond; and (3) a $30 renewal fee or $45 to add electronic notary endorsement. To initiate the renewal commission process, go to http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/notary/nrenew.html or log in or sign up to apply online.
Are there any exams or notary courses required to become a Washington notary public or to renew my Washington notary public commission?
No. Renewing notaries and new applicants seeking appointments as Washington notaries are not required to take or pass any notary courses or examinations to be appointed and commissioned as Washington notaries public. However, the Department of Licensing strongly recommends that all new notary applicants complete a notary course study so that they can clearly understand the laws, duties, and responsibilities of being a Washington notary public. To encourage new notary applicants to learn their notarial duties and responsibilities, the Department of Licensing has provided a notary training video on its website.
Can I perform electronic notarization in Washington?
Yes. Effective July 1, 2018, the Washington Legislature enacted the “Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts,” which allows a notary public to obtain an electronic or digital signature and electronic seal to notarize electronic records in the physical presence of the individual seeking the notarization (RCW 42.45.190). In addition, the Department of Licensing adopted regulations, by final rulemaking set forth in the Washington Administrative Code, relating to electronic notarization provisions with respect to electronic records for electronic records notaries public. The regulations adopted by the Department of Licensing were implemented to conform to the new provisions of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, which also incorporates standards, guidelines, and procedures for electronic notarizations.
Can I perform remote (online) notarizations in Washington?
No. The Washington notary statute requires a principal to personally appear (face-to-face) before a Washington notary public when any notarial act 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 and to 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. The Washington statutes do not authorize notaries public to witness a notarial act or to communicate with a principal using audio/video technologies or other electronic means. Therefore, the notaries in Washington are prohibited from performing online webcam notarizations.
However, the Washington 2019 Legislature enacted Senate Bill 5641, which amends and adds a new section to the “Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts” of the Revised Code of Washington. Effective October 1, 2020, the newly enacted law permits Washington notaries to perform remote online notarizations for remotely located individuals using communication technology that conforms to the standards adopted by the Department of Licensing. The Department of Licensing has not promulgated regulations through final rulemaking to implement and conform to the statutory provisions of Senate Bill 5641 relating to remote online notarizations. The new law requires that any rules the Department of Licensing adopts relating to remote online notarizations must: (1) prescribe the means of performing a notarial act involving a remotely located individual using communication technology; (2) establish standards for communication technology and identity proofing; (3) establish requirements or procedures to approve providers of communication technology and the process of identity proofing; and (4) establish standards and a period for the retention of an audio-visual recording created under the new law.
What is the process to become a Washington online notary public?
A notary applicant may only apply to the Department of Licensing for endorsement for a commission as an electronic records notary public if the applicant: (1) has an active notary public commission or is applying for a notary public commission and an electronic records notary public endorsement simultaneously; (2) submits a completed and signed electronic records notary public application prescribed form; (3) purchases a $10,000 bond if applying simultaneously for a traditional notary commission and an endorsement for a commission as an electronic records notary; (4) pays the application prescribed fee of $45; (5) selects one or more tamper-evident technologies to perform notarial acts with respect to electronic records that conforms to the approved standards by rule; and (6) notifies the Department of Licensing and identifies the tamper-evident technology he or she intends to use to perform electronic notarizations within thirty days of the endorsement.
When performing an electronic notarization using an approved tamper-evident technology, an electronic records notary public must adhere to these statutory requirements:
- The principal must physically be in the presence of the electronic records notary at the time of the performance of the electronic notarial act.
- The notary and the principal must both be physically located within the boundaries of Washington State.
- The principal’s identity must be established through satisfactory evidence of identity pursuant to RCW 42.45.050.
- The notary must confirm that an electronic record before the notary is the same electronic record in which the principal made a statement or on which the principal executed or adopted a signature.
- The notary must complete an electronic notarial certificate for the electronic notarization in the physical presence of the principal (WAC 308-30-150).
- The notary must ensure that the electronic notarial certificate for the electronic notarization is attached to or logically associated with the electronic record that is the subject of the electronic notarization.
- The notary must sign the electronic notarial certificate with an electronic signature that complies with WAC 308-30-170.
- The notary must authenticate the electronic notarial act with an electronic official seal that conforms to WAC 380-30-180.
- The notary must record in chronological order the electronic notarization in an electronic tamper-evident journal.
- The notary must access a tamper-evident technology by a password or other secure means of authentication.
- A notary must attach the notary’s electronic signature and seal to the electronic notarial certificate of an electronic document in a manner that is capable of being independently verified.
- The notary must take reasonable steps to ensure that no other individual may possess or access a tamper-evident technology used to produce the notary’s electronic signature.
A notary’s electronic journal must: (1) be in a permanent, tamper-evident electronic format that conforms to rules; (2) have the capacity to record the information required for a tangible journal; (3) enable access by password or other secure means of authentication; (4) be capable of producing tangible or electronic copies of any entry made in the journal; (5) create a duplicate record of the journal as a backup; and (6) be maintained only in addition to the tangible journal.
First and foremost, the Washington notary statute requires that the principal must physically appear before the electronic records notary public at the time of the electronic notarial act. This means that, at the time of the execution of the electronic notarization, the principal and the electronic records notary are physically close enough to see and hear each other and to share identification credentials without reliance on an electronic device such as a telephone, computer, video camera, or facsimile machine. 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 electronic records notary public. Furthermore, the liability, sanctions, and remedies for the improper performance of electronic notarizations are the same under the law as for the improper performance of a notarial act performed by a traditional notary public.
How long is the term of a notary public commission in Washington?
The commission term of a Washington notary public is four years commencing with the date specified in the notary public commission. However, a notary’s commission may be rendered void (1) by resignation, death, or revocation; (2) when a notary is no longer a resident of Washington during the commission term; (3) when a notary is no longer a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States; (4) when a non-resident notary ceases to maintain a place of employment or practice in Washington; (5) when a notary loses his or her capability to read and write English; or (6) when a notary has been disqualified to receive a notary public commission pursuant to RCW 42.45.210.
Is a Washington notary bond required to become a notary in Washington?
Yes. An assurance in the form of a surety bond in the amount of $10,000 is required for renewing notaries and all new applicants seeking appointments as notaries. The assurance must be issued by a surety or other entity licensed or authorized to write surety bonds in Washington. A licensed surety must execute the bond. The assurance must be effective for a four-year term or for a term that expires on the date the notary public's commission expires. The surety or issuing entity must give at least thirty days' notice to the Department of Licensing before canceling the assurance. The surety or issuing entity must notify the Department of Licensing not later than thirty days after making a payment to a claimant under the assurance. A notary public may perform notarial acts in Washington only during the period that a valid assurance is on file with the Department of Licensing (RCW 42.45.200).
Do I need a Washington notary errors and omission insurance?
An errors and omissions insurance policy is optional in Washington. The American Association of Notaries recommends that Washington notaries 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 the notary public for recovery. An E&O policy customarily covers legal fees and damages based on the coverage a Washington notary selects.
Where can I perform notarial acts in Washington?
A Washington notary public has statewide jurisdiction and may perform notarial acts anywhere within the geographic borders of the state of Washington. Likewise, a Washington notary may not perform notarial acts outside of Washington State.
Who appoints Washington notaries public?
The Washington State Department of Licensing appoints and commissions notaries and electronic records notaries, administers the commissioning process, and maintains an electronic database of active notaries and electronic records notaries. To contact the Department of Licensing, use the following information:
Do I need to purchase a notary stamp in Washington?
Yes. The Washington notary statute requires all notaries public to use either a rubber stamp or an embossed seal to authenticate all their official acts. Rule 308-30-070 of the Washington Administrative Code provides the legal specifications regarding the layout and the information required on all official stamps or embosser seals.
Dimensions: The official seal or stamp must conform to the following requirements: (a) be minimum one and five-eighths inches diameter if circular, or one inch wide by one and five-eighths inches long if rectangular; (b) be affixed in permanent ink and be capable of being photocopied; (c) not include the Washington state seal; and (d) be printed in a minimum of 8-point font.
Dimensions for an Embosser on Recordable Documents: When used on a recordable document, an embossing seal must meet the following criteria (RCW 65.04.045): (1) all text on the document, including the seal impression, must be in 8-point type or larger; (2) the seal impression must be “legible and capable of being imaged.” In general, this means that an
embossing seal would have to be inked prior to use or its impression would have to be “smudged” after being affixed.
Required Elements: The official seal or stamp of a notary public must include the following elements (RCW 42.45.150):
- The words “Notary Public”
- The words “State of Washington”
- The notary public’s name as commissioned
- The notary public’s commission expiration date
- The notary public’s commission number
- Any other information required by the director
Note: The notary’s official seal or stamp is the exclusive property of the notary public, and the notary must not surrender his or her official seal to the notary’s employer upon termination of employment. When an official seal or stamp is lost or stolen, the notary must notify the Department of Licensing in writing within ten business days of discovering the seal or stamp was lost or stolen, and the notary will not be able to get a replacement seal until the Department of Licensing has been notified. A replacement official seal or stamp must contain some variance from the original seal or stamp (WAC 308-30-090).
Is a notary journal required in Washington?
Yes. The Washington notary statute requires all Washington notaries public to record in chronological order all notarial acts performed in a tangible journal (RCW 42.45.180). A notary public is required to maintain only one tangible journal at a time whether the notarial acts are performed regarding tangible or electronic records. The format of a journal maintained on a tangible medium must be a permanent, bound register with numbered pages. An electronic records notary may maintain an electronic format journal to record his or her electronic notarial acts, which can be kept concurrently with the tangible journal. A notary-attorney licensed to practice law in Washington is not required to maintain a journal of his or her notarial acts performed if documentation of the notarial act is otherwise maintained by professional practice. The notary’s journal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary. A notary’s failure to secure his or her journal may be cause for the Department of Licensing to take administrative action against the notary’s commission (RCW 42.45.180). A notary public must retain the journal for ten years after the performance of the notarial act chronicled in the journal. For Washington notary supplies, visit our website at www.usnotaries.com, call (800) 721-2663, or click here.
How much can a Washington notary charge for performing notarial acts?
The Washington notary fees are set by the Department of Licensing adopted rules (WAC 308-30-220). The maximum allowable fees that a Washington notary public may charge for notarial acts are listed below:
- Taking an acknowledgment - $10.00
- Administering an oath or affirmation - $10.00
- Taking a verification upon oath or affirmation - $10.00
- Certifying that an event has occurred or an act has been performed - $10.00
- Witnessing or attesting a signature - $10.00
- Certifying or attesting a copy - $10.00
In addition, a notary may charge a travel fee when traveling to perform a notarial act if: (a) the notary and the individual requesting the notarial act agree upon the travel fee in advance of the travel; and (b) the notary explains to the individual requesting the notarial act that the travel fee is in addition to the notarial fee specified by rule and is not required by law. A notary may additionally charge the actual costs of copying any instrument or record. A notary public may not charge fees for receiving or noting a protest of a negotiable instrument or record.
What notarial acts can a Washington notary public perform?
Washington notaries public are authorized to perform the following notarial acts (RCW 42.45.010):
- Taking an acknowledgment
- Administering an oath or affirmation
- Witnessing or attesting a signature
- Taking a verification upon oath or affirmation
- Certifying or attesting a copy
- Noting a protest of a negotiable instrument
- Certifying that an event has occurred or an act has been performed
How do I update my address with the Washington Secretary of State?
Washington notaries are required to notify the Department of License in writing within fifteen days of any changes to the information submitted on their notary public commission applications or endorsement applications. To update the information with the Department of Licensing by mail or email, a notary must include: (1) his or her name as it appears on the notary commission certificate; (2) date of birth; (3) previous address, phone, email; and (4) new address, phone, or email. There is no charge for an address change, and a new commission certificate will not be issued. To change a notary’s information online simply, log in or sign up by clicking here.
Do I have to change my name on my notary commission in Washington?
A Washington notary public whose name has legally changed during the term of his or her notary commissions is required to notify the Department of Licensing on a prescribed form within fifteen days of such a name change. A name change notification by mail must include: (1) a completed Notary Public Name Change Application; (2) a copy of the surety bond rider from the bonding company showing the new name; and (3) a $15 filing fee in a check or money order for a new notary certificate. For a name change online, a notary must: (1) get an electronic copy of the surety bond rider with the new name; (2) choose a method of payment for the $15 filing fee; (3) log in or sign up to change his or her name online. The Department of Licensing will issue a duplicate notary public commission with the notary’s new name. For a name change, click here.
Washington notarial certificates:
Click here to view Washington's notarial certificates.
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 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.