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General Information FAQ

So your thinking of becoming commissioned as a Notary Public in the state of California.

 

Office of Secretary of State
Business Programs Division,
Notary Public Section,
PO Box 942877,
Sacramento, CA 94277-0001
(916) 653-3595
www.sos.ca.gov/business/notary/

 

Click here to view California's notarial certificate ;

We have listed some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming commissioned as a Notary Public below.

 

What are the requirements for eligibility to become a Notary Public in California?

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a legal resident of the State of California
  • Complete a six-hour course of study approved by the Secretary of State
  • Pass a written examination prescribed by the Secretary of State with a score of at least 70%
  • Pass a background check by the FBI and the California Department of Justice
  • Ability to read, write and speak basic english
  • Not have been convicted of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude

 

What do I need to do to become a Notary Public in California?

  • Meet the eligibility requirements(see above)
  • Properly complete and submit a notary application form to the Secretary of State with a filing fee of $40.00, attach a 2 x 2 color passport photo of the applicant to the back of the completed application form and attach the Proof of Completion Certificate. To download the notary application form,
    log on to http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/notary/forms.htm
  • Once the commission has been issued, within 30 calendar days from the beginning of the term prescribed in the commission, take, subscribe, and file an oath of office and a $15,000 surety bond with the county clerk where the notary maintains a principal place of business. If the oath and bond are not filed within the 30-calendar-day time period, the commission will not be valid. There are no exceptions to the 30-day filing requirement.

 

Can I be commissioned in California as a Notary Public if I'm not a resident of California?

  • No, the state of California specifically requires that Notary Publics commissioned in the state must be residents.

 

Do I need to post a Notary bond in California?

  • Yes, you will be required to post a $15,000 Notary bond for all commissioned Notary Publics.

 

Do I need Error and Ommission insurance?

  • Although insurance is optional, the Notary Public Institute recommends that California notaries insure themselves against claims of negligence through Errors and Omission insurance.

 

Is there a filing fee associated with becoming a Notary Public in California?

  • Yes, there is a filing fee for new and renewing Notary Publics in California. The fee for 2011 is $40.00 but may be subject to change.

 

How long is a Notary Public commission valid for in California?

  • Your commission will be valid for 4 years.

 

What is my jurisdiction once I'm commissioned as a Notary in California?

  • Notary commission is valid anywhere within the state of California.

 

When must I renew my Notary commission?

  • A notary public may apply up to one year before the expiration of the current commission by completing a renewal application form and by completing the approved three-hour refresher.

 

What training is required to be commissioned as a Notary in California?

  • Required. Every notary must satisfactorily complete a six or three-hour course approved by the Secretary of State prior to appointment. After completing the approved six or three-hour course, the vendor will issue a Proof of Completion Certificate that will be valid for two years from the date of issuance. After receiving the Proof of Completion Certificate, the applicant registers for an exam by contacting Cooperative Personnel Service (CPS). The written examination must be passed with a score of at least 70%.

 

Do I have to provide my own Notary Seal?

  • Yes, it is required.
  • Type rubber-inked stamp is required, an embosser is optional.
    Ink color - any color as long as the seal can be reproduced under photographic methods.
    Shape - round or rectangular
    Dimensions - circular form of not more than 2" in diameter or, if rectangular, 1" in width and 2 1/2" in length
  • Required elements - state seal, name of notary public, commission expiration date, name of county where oath and bond are on file, commission number, identification number assigned to the manufacturer or vendor, and the words "Notary Public." The seal must have a serrated or milled edge border. The notary seal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary, and must not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment.

 

Do I have to provide my own Notary Record Book?

  • Yes, you must provide your own Record Book. A notary public must maintain one active sequential journal for all notarial acts performed. The journal must be kept in a locked and secured area, under the direct and exclusive control of the notary. If the journal is stolen, lost, misplaced, destroyed, or damaged, or otherwise rendered unusable as a record, the notary shall immediately notify the Secretary of State by certified or registered mail. Such notice must include the periods of journal entries, the notary"s commission number, the commission expiration date, and a police report, if applicable. A notary must surrender his notary journal immediately when requested by a peace officer investigating a criminal offense if such officer shows probable cause as required by law. A peace officer or law enforcement agency that seizes a notary journal must notify the Secretary of State by facsimile within 24 hours. A power of attorney document is added to the list of documents that requires a thumbprint in the journal. Upon receipt of a request for information from a notary"s journal, the notary must provide such information within 15 business days.

 

How much can I charge for my Notary services?

Notary fees are set by state law. A notary public is allowed to charge up to the maximum listed for each notarial act.
The fees for 2011 are listed below:

  • Acknowledgments $10.00
  • Jurats $10.00
  • Oaths or affirmations $10.00
  • Copy certifications $10.00
  • Protests $10.00
  • Depositions $20.00
    + $5 for administering oath to the witness
    + $5 for certificate to the deposition
  • Note: No fees are allowed for absentee ballots, forms relating to insurance, pensions, claims, allotment, compensation, or other benefits for military veterans.

 

What authority do I have as a commissioned Notary in California?

A California notary has the authority to:

  • Take acknowledgments
  • Administer oaths and affirmations
  • Perform jurats
  • Take depositions
  • Protest instruments
  • Certify copies of power of attorney
  • Certify copies of non-recordable documents

 

I've moved since becoming commissioned. What should I do?

  • The Secretary of State must be notified of any changes in business or residence address by certified mail within 30 days of the change. An address notification must include the notary"s commission name, commission number, commission expiration date, and new address. If a notary transfers to a new county, the notary is not required to file a new oath of office or bond. A notary public who willfully fails to notify the Secretary of State of a change of address within 30 days of the change on a form prescribed by Secretary of State may be subject to a fine of not more than $500. Click here to download the change of address form--
    www.sos.ca.gov/business/notary/forms.htm

 

I've changed my name since becoming commissioned. What should I do?

  • A change in name requires a notary to complete an Application for Name Change form that must be sent by certified mail to the Secretary of State within 30 days of the change. Within 30 days after the amended commission is issued, the notary must file a new oath of office and an amendment to the bond with the county clerk with the amended name. If the notary fails to file the amended oath and bond within the 30-day time limit, the name change will become void and the commission will revert back to the previous name and a new name change application will have to be submitted. A notary public who willfully fails to notify the Secretary of State of a change of name within 30 days of the change on a form prescribed by the Secretary of State may be subject to a fine of not more than $500. Click here to download the change of name form--
    www.sos.ca.gov/business/notary/forms.htm

 

What happens to a Notary commission in the case of resignation, removal, or death?

  • A notary or notary"s representative must provide the Secretary of State a written notification when the notary"s commission is revoked or expired, when the notary resigns, or in the case of the death of a notary. A notary or notary"s representative must deliver all of the notarial records and papers to the clerk of the county in which the oath of office is on file within 30 days, and the seal must be destroyed.

 

What actions are prohibited?

  • Prepare, draft, select, or give advice concerning legal documents
  • Perform acts that constitute the practice of law
  • Use the phrase "notario" or "notario publico" to advertise notary services
  • Advertise or promote yourself as an immigration specialist or consultant
  • Overcharge for notary services
  • Notarize a document without the signer being present at the time of the notarization
  • Authorize a confidential marriage unless he is approved by the county clerk
  • Notarize a signature on a document unless the signer"s identity has been established by satisfactory evidence
  • Attest to the trueness of a photocopy of a recordable document
  • Sign under any other name than his commission name
  • Notarize a document that is incomplete
  • Sign a notarial certificate that contains false statements
  • Notarize a document in which you have a financial or beneficial interest or is named as a party to the transaction

 

Are there any possible civil or criminal penalties I could face as a commissioned Notary?

  • No acknowledgment may be taken or jurat executed on the basis of personal knowledge alone. A notary who violates this law may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
  • The certificate of acknowledgment must be executed under penalty of perjury. A notary who willfully states as true any material fact known to be false can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
  • Willful failure of a notary to surrender his notary journal to a peace officer may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.
  • A notary who fails to notify the Secretary of State of a change of address or a name change may be subject to a fine of up to $500.
  • A notary who fails to obtain a thumbprint as required by Government Code Section 8206 may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500.
  • A notary who knowingly and willfully with intent to defraud performs any notarial act in relation to a deed of trust on real property with knowledge that the deed of trust contains any false statement or is forged, in whole or in part, is guilty of a felony.
  • A notary is guilty of a misdemeanor if he willfully fails to properly maintain a notary journal.
  • A notary is guilty of a misdemeanor if he fails to keep his seal under lock and key or willfully surrenders the seal to any person not authorized to possess it.
  • A notary"s who willfully fails to deliver his notarial records to the county clerk within the 30-day period after the commission has been revoked, or the notary resigns, or the commission expires may be guilty of a misdemeanor.
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