How to Become a Notary Public in California

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How to Become a Notary Public in California
Step by Step Instructions

How to Become a Notary Public in California

Step-by-step instructions on how to become a notary public in California. If you are looking for an answer to a specific question, scroll down to Additional Info.

Source: https://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/qualifications.

1. Mandatory Education: California requires new notaries to take a six-hour notary training course. Renewing notaries are required to take a three-hour notary course.

2. State Exam: All applicants seeking appointment as a notary public, will be required to satisfactorily pass a written exam prior to appointment as a notary public. Please refer to the following links for exam materials: the California Notary Public Handbook, the California Notary Public Application, and California Notary Testing Information.

  • Take the state-administered test (the California notary exam is proctored the same day as the LIVE seminar)
    • Bring a $40 check payable to: Secretary of State
    • Bring a 2"x2" Color "Passport" Photograph ($10-$15 at seminar)
    • Bring a valid photo ID

How do I register for the California Notary State Exam?

  1. Call CPS at (916) 263-3520; or
  2. Go online to: https://www.cpshr.us/exam-registration/notary/registration/
  3. You must register at least two weeks in advance to guarantee a seat.

3. Test Scores: You will receive a letter in the mail saying "You have passed." Test results should be posted 8-10 business days after the exam. To see your score, you can go online to: https://cmas.cpshr.us/CMAS/Login.aspx to view your test score. To obtain your password, call CPS at (916) 263-3520.

4. Live Scan: Submit live scan fingerprints to the Department of Justice and FBI for your thorough background check. The Live Scan application is included with your mailed test results. Alternatively, you can access the California Notary Live Scan Form.

5. Await Commission Packet: Wait for your commission paperwork to arrive (4-12 weeks from exam date). The notary public commission packet will be mailed once the application has been approved and after the applicant has passed the background check. The notary public commission packet includes:

  • a cover letter with instructions;
  • filing instructions;
  • a notary public commission certificate;
  • two Notary Public Oath and Certificate of Filing forms;
  • a Certificate of Authorization to Manufacture Notary Public Seals; and
  • a list of Authorized Manufacturers of Notary Public Seals.

If you took the exam at least six weeks prior to the expiration date on your current notary public commission, your new notary public commission will not be sent to you more than 30 days before the expiration date.

6. Notary Supplies: If you haven't already, order your California notary stamp, notary journal, and bond. We will send your notary supplies the same day we receive your Certificate of Authorization.

  • Send your original Certificate of Authorization to: Notary.net PO Box 41400 Des Moines, IA 50311

7. File Your Notary Public Oath and Bond: A notary public must file an oath of office and bond with the county clerk's office in the county where their principal place of business is located. The oath and bond may be submitted to the county clerk prior to the commencement date of the commission and must be filed no later than 30 calendar days after the commencement date of the commission.

  • You must take the following items to file at the county clerk:
        • Original Bond
        • Two Oath of Office Forms
          • These are included in your commission packet you received from the state.
        • Original Commission Certificate
        • Photo ID
        • Payment for filing and recording fees (varies by county)

 

Congratulations, you are now a California Notary Public!

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Commission Term: 4 years
Minimum Age: 18 years old
Residency: California Resident
Stamp/Seal: Inked Stamp
Journal: Required
Bond: $15,000
Application Fee: $40 (test and application)
Eligibility: No felony convictions or disqualifying misdemeanors.
Other: Mandatory Education, State Exam, Background Check

Address:
Notary Public Section
P.O. Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277-0001

Phone: (916) 653-3595

California Notary Basics: Verifying the Identity of the Signer

Satisfactory Evidence

When completing an acknowledgement or a jurat, the notary public must first verify the signer's identity.

To verify the identity of the signer, the notary must have satisfactory evidence.

Satisfactory evidence is the lack of any information or (suspicious) circumstance which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the signer is not who they claim to be AND either 1) Identification documents, or 2) Identity verification by a credible third-party.

1. Identification Documents

The identity of the signer can be established by the notary public's reasonable reliance on the presentation of identification documents meeting the requirements of, for example, California Civil Code section 1185(b)(3) or (b)(4). In addition, there must be no suspicious information and/or circumstances leading the notary to believe a signer is not who the signer claims to be. 

The types of identification documents listed below may be presented to a notary public to establish identity in the State of California. The identification documents must be current or issued within the last five years (California Civil Code section 1185(b)(3)).

  1. A driver's license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles; or
  2. A United States passport; or
  3. An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody in California state prison; or
  4. Any form of inmate identification issued by a sheriff's department, if the inmate is in custody in a local detention facility. 

Other approved identification cards, consisting of any one of the following which contain a serial or other identifying number, a photograph of the named person, a description of the named person, and the signature of the named person are also acceptable. These also must be current or issued within the last five years.

  1. A valid consular identification document issued by a consulate from the applicants country of citizenship, or a valid passport from the applicants country of citizenship; or
  2. A driver's license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue drivers' licenses; or
  3. An identification card issued by another state (not including an identification card issued by a Canadian or Mexican public agency); or
  4. An ID card issued by any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States; or
  5. An employee ID card issued by any agency or office of a California city, county, city and county, or the State of California; or
  6. An ID card issued by a federally recognized tribal government.

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2. Oath or Affirmation of a Single Credible Witness

If the signer doesn't have an ID in any acceptable form, you can use an oath or affirmation of a single credible witness to verify the signer's identity.

If there is no information or circumstance leading a notary public to believe a signer is not who the signer claims to be, and if it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to present a paper identification document, the identity of the signer can be established by the oath of a single credible witness who personally knows the signer. However, the notary public also must personally know the credible witness and the credible witness must present a proper identification document. (California Civil Code section 1185(b)(1)).

"Personally known" is commonly interpreted as having an acquaintance with a person that establishes the person’s identity with at least reasonable certainty: multiple, recent meetings with a person, including meetings during which the person is identified by other people. For example, co-workers have personal knowledge of each other if they meet frequently at their workplace and colleagues and customers have identified them in the presence of others. (See cases collected in West’s California Annotated Civil Code (2007 edition) following section 1185.)

Even though the notary public personally knows the credible witness, the notary must still confirm the credible witness' identity by examining a paper identification document that meets the requirements of California Civil Code sections 1185(b)(3) and (b)(4).

After establishing the identity of the credible witness, the notary public must administer an oath or affirmation to the credible witness to establish the identity of the signer. Under oath, the credible witness must swear that ALL of the following statements are true:

  • The credible witness personally knows the signer;
  • The credible witness reasonably believes that the circumstances of the signer are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of identification;
  • The signer does not possess any of the identification documents authorized by law to establish the signer's identity;
  • The credible witness does not have a financial interest in the document and is not named in the document.

How much does it cost to become a new notary in California?

$49.95 Required Training
$40 State Exam ($20 if failed previous exam)
$72-$80 Live Scan
$10-$15 2x2 "Passport" Photo
$45-$119 Notary Supplies (Journal, stamp, fingerprint kit)
$38 $15,000/4yr bond
$20-$100+ Oath of office, filing and recording fees
$275-$442 Total costs for 4 year commission.

 

What do I do if my address changes?

California law requires a notary public to notify the California Secretary of State of address changes to ensure that the California Secretary of State and members of the public are able to contact the notary public about notarial acts the notary public performed. Notaries public must notify the California Secretary of State by certified mail or any other means of physical delivery that provides a receipt within 30 days of changing their business or residence address. Willful failure to notify the California Secretary of State of a change of address is punishable as an infraction by a fine of up to $500.

Best practices tip: In addition to the new address, the notification should include the name of the notary public (exactly as it appears on the commission), the commission number, and whether the address being changed is a business, residence or mailing address. If the change is to a business address, the notification should state the name of the business that is located at the new address, if that is where the notary public will perform a majority of the notarial services, or that the notary public will be self-employed. There is no fee to submit an address change form or address change letter.