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

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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 2×2 “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.