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By - Craig Mullins

How To Become A Notary in California

Throughout the United States, there are more than 4.4 million Notaries that equates to roughly one notary for every 72 people in the country! Notaries are a necessary role in America. Some of the duties include helping verify that people are who they say they are and they have the mental capacity to complete the transaction. There are so many people who try to take advantage of others, so being a notary protects people during important transactions. If you want to become a notary public in California, we can help! Keep reading to learn more about how to become a notary in California.

What Is A Notary Public

The NNA defines a notary public as, “an official of integrity appointed by state government —typically by the secretary of state — to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.” These acts are called notarizations or notarial acts. The person performing these is typically called the notary, notary public or mobile notary. Notaries are publicly commissioned, meaning they have a set of legal rules they need to abide by. They determine that a document is authentic, that its signature is genuine, and that its signer acted without duress or intimidation, and intended the terms of the document to be in full force and effect.

Different Roles of A Notary

A notary doesn’t simply sign documents. They are tasked with other responsibilities to ensure the legality of certain documents.

Maintaining A Journal of Notarization’s

A notary journal is required for notary publics to maintain. They serve as a record of the notarization’s the notary public has performed. It is a detailed record of the transaction, making it useful when notarized documents are lost. Some things included in a notary journal are the date the notarization was completed, what type of notarial act it was for, a description of the document that has been notarized, the name and address of the party, fingerprints, where the notary was performed, the fee for the notarization, the identification used, and more.

Not only will these details remind you of everything that happens at the event, but they also may protect you from the law. Some events that require a notary public may lead to court. In these situations, notaries are often called upon to give their testimony.

Verification

Notaries are often needed to verify identification and information about the process before they begin the notarization. They may ask questions about forms of identification, verify that all the necessary documents are present and ready for the notarization, documents are complete, and more. It is vital that everyone involved with the issue at hand is present and ready to sign.

Identifying Fraud

Because notaries often deal with very important legal documents, it is important that they learn how to properly identify different types of fraud. In fact, deliberate notary fraud is illegal and is punishable in up to $10,000 in fines and up to a year of prison in the state of California. Notaries accused of notary fraud may also lose their commission. As a notary public, it is important to stay up to date on notary laws in your state.

To prevent fraud, notarize should confirm the identity of the party, inspect the documents for completeness, making sure clients are not misrepresented, and screen the signer for volition and awareness.

Handling Documents

There are many types of documents that a notary can sign. Many notaries can be employed by banks to oversee the signing of important documents. These include documents used for loans, property, mortgages, and more.

Notaries also notarize legal documents and forms. These types of documents include custody agreements, wills, trusts, court documents, and any other legally binding document.

Finally, notaries also handle business documents. While you don’t have to notarize every important document in your business, it may be important to notarize leases for your property, vendor and employee contracts, and more.

Notarial Certificates

A notary will create a notarial certificate before they complete the signing of the document. In this certification process, the signer of the documents will make a statement in front of the notary, ensuring the truthfulness of their actions with the threat of perjury. You will need to verify it has the proper notarial wording on them. Some laws changed a few years ago and many certificates are no longer legal in California. So attach your own if the certificate they have doesn’t have the proper wording.

How Do You Become A Notary In California

Becoming a notary public has different requirements in different states. If you want to become a notary public in California, our step-by-step guide will give you all the information you need!

Fill Out Your Application

Different states have different requirements to become a notary. Make sure you fill out the application for the state you wish to obtain a notary commission for. Some places even allow individuals to apply for a notary commission in several states at once. Make sure you check the requirements before you fill out your application!

There are several sections on the application to become a notary public. The first section you will need to fill out is about the applicant’s information. This includes their social security number, full legal name, driver’s license ID, and their date of birth.

Another section requires background information. This includes name changes, criminal convictions or court liabilities, and more information about any past revocation, suspension, or denial of a professional license, including a past application to become a notary.

The application to become a notary public in California is only two pages long and won’t take too much time to complete!

Complete Your Notary Education

Depending on the state you live in, there may be different requirements for the education needed to become a notary. However, notary publics in California need to complete a notary course. For a new applicant, a 6 hours notary course is required in California. However, there are also options for a 3-hour refresher notary course to renew your notary commission.

These courses are designed to teach you everything you need to know about notary practices. This includes learning about each of the different roles a notary performs, laws that apply to notary publics, and more.

Take The Notary Public Exam in California

Once you have completed your notary course, you are ready to take your licensing exam in California! The California state notary exam has 45 questions and students must get at least a 70% on the test to pass. Each of the questions are multiple-choice. If you do not pass the test on your first try, you can retake it as many times as you need! However, you may not take it more than one time in the same month. You will also be required to pay additional fees every time you take the test. For first time notary applicants, the cost to take the test is $40 every time you take the test. The fee is only $20 for notaries renewing their commission.

Submit Fingerprints

Before you receive your notary commission, you need to submit your fingerprints and go through a background check. If you are looking for a center to get your fingerprints completed, visit the Attorney General website to find live scan fingerprint locations in your area.

Receive Your Commission Packet

When you have passed your exam, you will receive your test results within 15 business days. Once you have passed, you will wait to receive your commission packet. Included in this packet are your filing instructions, your potary public commission certification, oath and certificate of filing forms, and your certification that authorizes you to manufacture notary public seals. You need this certification if you want to order your notary seal stamp. Each state has their own official state steal stamp.

File Your Bond

The last thing you need to do to become a notary public in California is to file your notary bond and take your oath as a new notary. You must take this oath within 30 days of the day you received your commission of authorization.

Education Needed To Become A Notary

One benefit of becoming a notary public is that there are no education requirements necessary to get licensed. While you don’t need a degree to become a notary, certain certificates or associate degrees may help your career. While you don’t need any college education, notary applicants must be at least 18 years old and must complete their state notary education requirements. Applicants also must be a resident of the state in which they are applying for a notary commission.

What Disqualifies Notary Applicants?

There are many different things that can prevent you from becoming a notary public in any state. Most of these factors are criminal offenses, including forgery, fraud, assault, and more. Keeping your criminal record clean is vital if you want to become a notary public in California. If you fail to disclose felonies, arrests, or other convictions on your application to become a notary public, the Secretary of State in California will recommend denial of your notary application.

Types Of Notarization

There are different types of notarizations that go further than simply signing a document. With each type of notarization, the process the notary follows may be different. Here are a few different types of notarization and the process that the notary follows.

Oaths & Affirmations

In this situation, the person taking the oath or affirmation must be present with the notary. These must be done in person. Documents requiring an oath or affirmation MUST be signed in the presence of the notary. These are jurats.

Often, the notary will have the person taking the oath raise their hand as they ask them if they will swear that their statement is true. The person will respond affirmatively. The statement the notary asks the person giving an oath or affirmation will differ depending on the situation.

An oath is a solemn pledge to a Supreme Being. An affirmation is a solemn pledge on the individual’s personal honor. Again, the choice should be made by the signer.

Certification of A Copy – Copy Certification

When a notary public is required to certify a copy made of an important document, they will carefully compare the original document to the copy of the document. Once it is verified that the copy matches the original document, the notary will make a notarial certificate stating that the copy is accurate. Be careful. California only allows Notaries to certify copies of powers of attorney or the Notary’s journal if requested by state officials or a court of law.

Acknowledgments

Some document transactions require that the signer make a formal declaration before a notary, thereby “acknowledging” execution (signing) of the document. Specifically, the signer verbally acknowledges that:
The signer understands the contents and purpose of the document;
The signature is his/her own
The document was signed willingly (no coercion)

Chapter 197, Statutes of 2014 amends California Civil Code section 1189 to require the addition of the following specific disclaimer to the top of the form certificate of acknowledgment: “A notary public or other officer completing this certificate verifies only the identity of the individual who signed the document to which this certificate is attached, and not the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of that document.”  The disclaimer must be legible and in an enclosed box.

The certificate of acknowledgment (PDF) must be in the form set forth in California Civil Code section 1189.

Jurats

Chapter 197, Statutes of 2014 amends California Government Code section 8202 to require the addition of the following specific disclaimer to the top of the form jurat: “A notary public or other officer completing this certificate verifies only the identity of the individual who signed the document to which this certificate is attached, and not the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of that document.” The disclaimer must be legible and in an enclosed box.

The jurat (PDF) must be in the form set forth in California Government Code section 8202.

Witnessing Signatures

If a signature on an important document requires verification, a notary will often be required in the situation. Unlike oaths and affirmations, the signer doesn’t need to give any statements. Rather, the notary will identify who the signer is, the signer will sign the document, and the notary will create a notarial certificate to confirm when the signature was made. In most states, this certificate is authenticated with the notary’s seal and the notary will record the action in their notarial journal.

Notary Fees

While it isn’t a very expensive process to become a notary public in California, there are still a few fees that need to be paid to get your commission. First, you need to pay for your notary supplies. These include a notary stamp, a notary journal, a thumb printer, a notary bond, and more. You will also need to pay for your application as well as your exam fee, for your fingerprints, and for your notary seal.

What To Include In A Notarization

A notarization has many different elements that complete it. A notarized document needs to include the place where the notarization is completed, the notary’s signature, the notary’s seal, and the main information about the notarization. This information includes the name of the signer, when the notarization took place, and other details.

Learn More About Becoming A Notary Public

Becoming a notary public has different requirements in each state. However, being a notary is a very rewarding job and is a great skill to have. If you want to become a notary public in the state of California, Craig Mullins can help! Contact us today to learn more about our partnerships and how we can help you become a notary.


Questions and Answers:

Here’s a link to the 2021 Notary Public Handbook Published by the California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber. Previous versions here.

What does the California Secretary of State do:
Oversees notary commissions within the State, as well as authenticating the signatures of California public officials and notaries public. They grant four-year notary public commissions to qualified persons, approves notary public education courses, authorizes notary seal manufacturers, investigates violations of notary public law and takes disciplinary action, and issues apostilles. Contact info here. (916) 653-6814

What is a Notario Publico?

It’s a Spanish word that translates to notary public. The problem is in many Latin American countries it means the individual has received the equivalent of a law license and who is authorized to represent others before the government. Do not ever use this term on any advertising in California or call yourself that.

Is Craig Mullins a Notary?
Yes, I have been doing mobile notaries in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and the San Francisco Bay Area for almost a decade now.  You can find my website Pleasanton Mobile Notary here. I’m also around the Twain Harte area a bit as well as Valley Springs. I love doing adoption agency notary’s, senior center notarys, going to the Santa Rita Jail, Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, FCI Dublin, trusts, wills, powers of attorneys, passport applications, vin verification’s, leases, rental agreements, pictures, Hospitals, nursing homes, senior living communities, charter schools, rehabilitation centers, Lifespan, Eldersource, banks, insurance agents, law firms, car dealerships, business documents like partnership agreements, etc. I also offer 24 hour 7 day a week service.

Do you offer web design for notaries?
Yes

Do you offer PPC, Pay Per Click, Digital Marketing Services, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization for notaries?
Yes; Feel free to inquire and we would love to help.

How long is a notary term?
4 years

Can you have a criminal record or be a felon as a notary?
It depends. Unfortunately you have to go thru all your training, apply & take fingerprints to find out. But in many cases you can become a notary. All applicants are required to disclose on their application any arrests for which trial is pending and all convictions. Convictions dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4 or 1203.4a must be disclosed. If it happened disclose it. If you can’t remember the details get a DOG and FBI background check printed out at a local sheriffs station.

The Secretary of State will recommend denial of an application for the following reasons:

  • Failure to disclose any arrest or conviction;
  • Conviction of a felony where not less than 10 years have passed since the completion of probation;
  • Conviction of a disqualifying misdemeanor where not less than 5 years have passed since the completion of probation; or
  • A determination that the facts of a particular case warrant denial, such as the nature and severity of the act or the presence of aggravating factors.

The most common disqualifying convictions are listed below; however, this list is not all-inclusive:

  • Arson-related offenses
  • Assault
  • Auto theft
  • Battery
  • Burglary
  • Carrying a concealed weapon
  • Carrying a loaded firearm in a public place
  • Child molestation
  • Child pornography
  • Conspiracy
  • Discharge of a firearm in a public place or into an inhabited dwelling
  • Drugs, possession for sale and sale
  • Embezzlement
  • Escape without force
  • Failure to comply with a court order
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Failure to return to confinement
  • False financial statements
  • False imprisonment
  • Forgery
  • Fraud involving, but not limited to, bank cards, credit cards, insufficient funds/checks, insurance, mail, Medi-Cal or Medicare, real estate, tax, and welfare
  • Fraudulent impersonation of a peace officer
  • Hit and run
  • Kidnapping-related offenses
  • Manslaughter
  • Pimping and pandering
  • Possession of an unregistered firearm
  • Practicing without a license when a license is required
  • Prostitution
  • Rape
  • Receipt of stolen property
  • Resisting or threatening a peace officer
  • Robbery
  • Solicitation
  • Statutory rape
  • Tax evasion
  • Terrorist threats
  • Theft, grand and petty, including burglary and robbery
  • Threats to commit a crime involving death or great bodily injury
  • Violation of Penal Code section 273.5 (domestic violence, spousal abuse, etc.)

Note: When a recommendation is made to deny an application, the applicant has the right to appeal the recommendation through the administrative hearing process.

NOTARY PUBLIC DISCIPLINARY GUIDELINES

If I owe back child support can I become a notary?
Applicants found to be non-compliant with child or family support orders will be issued temporary term notary public commissions. Notaries public found to be non-compliant after the notary public commission is issued may be subject to commission suspension or revocation. (Family Code section 17520.)

I passed my test and got my commission now what? I have no idea what to do?
I felt the exact same way. The training you just took teaches you to pass the notary test and that’s it. I actually asked the people I got my initial training from; the National Notary Association if I could take the class again just to make sure I fully understood it. They let me do it for free. It cleared up some things. But it still wasn’t enough. I reached out to  several notaries in my area if I could go with them on call outs and they could help mentor me. Yes I had to pay but it was invaluable training & worth every cent. So find a mentor. Take more classes, join some Facebook groups.

Do I have to pay taxes on my notary income?
Yes: you must file your schedule C; But remember the notary fee part is not subject to Self employment tax. So make sure to separate that part out. If you are a mobile notary the mobile fee part is. I’m not an accountant, attorney or tax person so make sure to verify.

Can I Notarize a document for myself, Friends or Family Members?
It depends… Notaries must be impartial witnesses to transactions. They may not have an interest in the documents that they notarize. Notaries are prohibited from notarizing their own signatures, or documents in which they are named. They must not profit or gain a financial benefit form anything they notorize; now or in the future. A signatre only cost a maximum of $15 in California. My recommendation is to just abstain from any of these transactions and save yourself the headache.

How much can I charge per signature as a notary in California?
$15 per signature notarized. Just to clarify, the document might have 10 places to sign on one document for one signer, but you are only notarizing that “one” document. So $15 per journal entry.

Can I notarize Incompetent Signers?
No; tell them to consult an attorney.

Can I perform a notary while I am in another state?
No; your notary commission in only good in California. Drive over the state line and then do the notary. You can do notary’s for documents in other states, just make sure you are in California when they are performed.

Are thumbprints required for every notarization?
No; only certain document types require it, although for your protection and the signers I’d recommend doing it for every single one.

Do you recommend joining any Notary associations?
Yes; they can be invaluable help. For example the National Notary Association has a 24 hour help line in case you are unsure about how to perform a duty & they cover all 50 states.

I think a drivers license, passport or identification might be fake. What do I do?
I would recommend an ID checking book that has pictures of all of these types of identification so you can compare them. You might need the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, etc. Identification, Drivers license, Passports, Consular Cards, Federal ID’s, Prisoner ID, Inmate Identification, County jails, etc.

What books, courses, videos, podcasts, directory’s & websites do you recommend?
I’m looking for tips on the best sources to help new notary’s out. Got any recommendations?

How do I store my notary supplies, seal and journal?
Your seal & journal must be under lock and key. No your boss can’t have it under any circumstances, nor should he have the key to where it’s stored.

Must a signer personally appear before me?
Yes. The signer must be in front of you and in the state of California. Doesn’t matter if you know them. For example if your boss is in Arizona and he asks you to notarized something. No Go. Tell him to meet you at the state line.

Do you recommend becoming a signing agent or working for title companies, escrow officers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers?
It’s up to you. It depends on how much business you want. But here’s my thoughts. I could do one mobile notary and charge $40 for travel and $15 for each signature for a total of $55.  15 minutes of work.

Now the flip side –
Some financing companies only pay $50 for a loan modification or a few bucks more for a refinance. Let’s look at your time and expenses, plus much more liability:

Ream of paper (500 sheets) might cost just under $10 bucks.
You might use up an entire $60 printer cartage of ink.
You might have to visit multiple signers; multiple times.
The bank might call you & cancel after you’ve already invested significant time and paid to print out your 400-sheet loan package of paperwork. They might not even call you at all and you might not find out until you are at the borrower’s house.

Are you even breaking even? I never do signings. But when you are first starting out, you probably don’t have the luxury of saying no. Plus your gaining lots of experience.

Quick Tips on How to Become A Notary In California


      1. Make sure you meet all the requirements. Eg. Over 18. Your criminal record doesn’t allow you to hold a commission. Legal resident of California.
      2. Take a 6 hour state approved training course. Don’t be late. If you have to travel a long way consider a hotel so you are fresh in the morning.
      3. Complete the notary public application form. Ideally do it at home so it’s typed out and no mistakes are made.
      4. Pass a state administered exam and pass. You will need your California photo ID, completed application,  2″ x 2″ color passport photo, proof of 6 hour course completion certificate, test registration confirmation letter, and a $40 check made out to the Secretary of State (Put last 4 of social security number on check). No credit cards or cash. Passing is a score of 70 or above. Bring a #2 pencil. Bring nothing into the exam room but yourself and a pencil. These people don’t like any funny business. No watch’s, phones, calculators, etc.
      5. Submit the request for LiveScan service form and make an appointment.  The DOJ Department of Justice has a list of Live Scan Locations. Pass the background check.
      6. In 15 days you will get a letter & email form CPS HR Consulting with your test score and if you passed or failed.
      7. If you do this thru the NNA you can do steps 2 – 5 on the same day.
      8. Receive your commission certificate from the state in the mail. Time is of the essence here now. They are usually way behind. You have 30 days from the date on the packet. Mine actually arrived on the 29th day. Not sure if it was a mail delay or what… So I had one day to get it done or I would have to repeat everything; steps 1-7. They are taking 4 – 12 weeks to mail these out after you find out you passed the exam. You will get filing instructions, commission certificate, two notary public oath & certificate of filing forms, and a certificate to manufacture seals. Make copies of everything but mail in your original certificate of authorization.
      9. Get a 15,000 surety bond & not required but I recommend at least 1 million in insurance (E&O Errors and omissions).
      10. File your bond & oath of office with the county clerk within 30 days. Most offices are closed right now due to covid-19. So no in person meetings. You will have to mail it. Double check everything. triple check everything.
      11. Buy your notary journal & notary stamp and notary public embosser.
      12. Once you get your oath stamped by the county if you can do it in person you are good to perform your notarial duties. If you do it by mail, you will have to wait till you get packet back.
      13. Show me the money! 🙂
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