Notary Public Commissions
1. How do I obtain a notary public commission?
In addition to completing the tasks outlined in the notary public Check List, and subject to passing a background check, a notary public commission can be obtained by passing an exam to verify your knowledge about the laws and regulations affecting notary public services. Exams are administered by CPS HR Consulting and registration can be made online at notary.cpshr.us or by calling CPS HR Consulting at (916) 263-3520.
2. Where can I get a Live Scan fingerprint form and have my fingerprints taken?
Fingerprints must be submitted electronically through the California Department of Justice Live Scan Program. A Request for Live Scan Service form must be submitted to a Live Scan provider who in turn will electronically transmit the fingerprints to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Please refer to the California Department of Justice website for a list of Live Scan providers.
3. I have a prior conviction. May I still be commissioned as a California notary public?
Certain convictions may preclude you from becoming a notary public. Please review the Secretary of State's Disciplinary Guidelines for information regarding disqualifying convictions.
4. What was my test score and did I pass the notary public exam?
Results from your Notary Public Examination will be emailed (if you provided an email address on the upper right hand corner of your application) or mailed via United States Postal Service 15-20 business days following the examination. Exam result information will not be discussed over the phone. If it has been more than 25 business days from your exam date, you can contact CPS HR Consulting at (916) 263-3520 or via email to email@example.com for assistance.
5. What is the status of my notary public application?
The notary public application processing time varies depending on when we receive your correctly completed notary public application and when we receive your background check information from the California Department of Justice for your Live Scan fingerprints. Please refer to our Processing Times webpage for daily updated processing information.
6. What is the status of my background investigation?
For up-to-date information about your background check, visit the California Department of Justice's Applicant Background Check Status webpage at https://applicantstatus.doj.ca.gov/. The ATI (Applicant Tracking Identifier) number from the Request for Live Scan Service Form and date of birth are required to perform a search.
7. Why does it take so long for the results of a name check to come back from the Department of Justice?
The name check processing time through the California Department of Justice varies and may take up to approximately four weeks.
8. Why did I get a letter to have my fingerprints taken when I had them taken months ago?
A system generated letter is sent to you four, eight, and twelve months from your exam date as a reminder to have your fingerprints taken via Live Scan. If you have had your fingerprints taken, we have not received the results from the California Department of Justice. You may wish to check on the status of your fingerprints by visiting the California Department of Justice's Applicant Background Check Status webpage at https://applicantstatus.doj.ca.gov/.
9. I did not file my oath and bond on time, what do I do?
If you did not file your oath and bond on time, you must reapply to become a notary public.
If you are a new notary public applicant, you must attach a current Proof of Completion certificate of an approved six-hour notary public education course to your new notary public application, along with a 2" x 2" color passport photo of yourself and a check for $20.00. You also will need to submit new fingerprints via Live Scan.
If you are a notary public seeking reappointment and took an approved three-hour notary public refresher education course, you will still need to take an approved six-hour course. The three-hour course does not meet the education requirements once your current commission has expired. You will need to attach the Proof of Completion certificate for the six-hour course to a new notary public application, along with a 2" x 2" color passport photo of yourself and a check for $20.00. You also will need to submit new fingerprints via Live Scan.
If you are a notary public seeking reappointment and took an approved six-hour education course, you must attach a current Proof of Completion certificate to a new notary public application, along with a 2" x 2" color passport photo of yourself and a check for $20.00. You also will need to submit new fingerprints via Live Scan.
10. What do I do if my business or home address has changed?
To change your address, send a letter or a change of address form by certified mail, or any other means of physical delivery providing a receipt, to the Secretary of State within 30 days of the change. (California Government Code section 8213.5.) Please refer to Contact Information for the mailing address.
11. What do I do if the location of my business operations has changed from one county to another?
Your commission allows you to notarize throughout the State of California, regardless of where your oath and bond are on file. If the location of your business has changed, you are required to send the Secretary of State a change of address form by certified mail, or any other means of physical delivery providing a receipt, within 30 days of the change. Please refer to Contact Information for the mailing address. If the address change is for your business, please include the business name in your notification. If the address change includes a change of county, you may choose to file a new oath of office and bond in the county to which your business has moved, however, a county transfer is not required. To file a county change, you must request an oath of office form from the Secretary of State. The oath will have the name of your original county, however, you will take and file your oath of office in the new county, checking the county transfer box at the bottom of the oath form. You also must take a new bond or a duplicate of the original bond and file it together with your oath of office in the new county. A certificate of authorization to manufacture a notary public seal will be sent to you once the Secretary of State has received and processed your oath of office filed in the new county. Your stamp must reflect the county where your most recent oath and bond are filed. (California Government Code sections 8213 and 8213.5.)
12. What do I do if my name has changed?
To change your name on our records and your notary public commission, you will need to complete a Name Change Application. Once approved, you will be issued an amended commission that reflects your new name. Next, you will need to file a new oath of office and an amendment to your bond with the county clerk within 30 days from the date the amended commission was issued in order for the name change to take affect. Within 30 days of the filing, you must obtain a new seal that reflects the new name. Once the amended oath and bond are filed, you may no longer use the commission, including the stamp, that was issued in your previous name. If you fail to file your amended oath and bond within the 30-day time limit, the name change will become void and your commission will revert back to the previous name and you will be required to submit another name change application. (California Government Code sections 8213 and 8213.6.)
13. My current notary public commission will expire soon and I have already reapplied to become a notary public. When will I get my new commission?
If all application requirements are met, your new notary public commission will be issued 30 days prior to the expiration date of your current notary public commission.
14. How soon can I take the test for reappointment if I currently hold a notary public commission?
To avoid a break in notary public commission terms, you should take the notary public exam at least six months prior to the expiration date of your current notary public commission. Test results are valid for one year from the date of the examination. (California Code of Regulations, Title 2, section 20803.)
15. How do I resign my notary public commission?
If you want to resign your commission, send a letter to the Secretary of State and deliver all of your notarial records and papers to the county in which your current oath of office is on file within 30 days and destroy your seal. (California Government Code section 8209.) Please refer to Contact Information for the Secretary of State's mailing address.
16. How do I obtain a duplicate commission certificate?
Notary Public Education
1. What are the requirements for applicants to be eligible to take an approved three-hour refresher notary public education course?
Notaries public who have previously completed an approved six-hour notary public education course and have a current active commission are eligible to take an approved three-hour refresher course if they have taken the notary public exam and submitted the application at the exam site prior to the expiration date of their current commission.
2. Can a six-hour notary public education course be taken in place of a three-hour refresher course?
A six-hour approved notary public education course satisfies the requirement for a three-hour refresher course and always satisfies the education requirement, regardless if you are a new applicant or applying for reappointment.
3. I applied for reappointment prior to the expiration date of my current notary public commission and took an approved three-hour notary public education course, but I failed the notary public exam. What do I do now?
If you failed the notary public exam, and you can take the exam again prior to the expiration date of your current notary public commission, the Proof of Completion certificate from the approved three-hour education course would still be valid. Attach the Proof of Completion certificate to your application, along with a 2" x 2" color passport photo of yourself and a check for $20.00 when you go to the exam site. However, if your commission expires prior to retaking the exam, you will be required to take an approved six-hour education course, even though you already took an approved three-hour education course. You will need to attach the Proof of Completion certificate from the approved six-hour education course to the application, along with a 2" x 2" color passport photo of yourself and a check for $20.00. If you have not already had your Live Scan fingerprints taken, you will need to submit fingerprints via Live Scan.
Notary Public Stamps & Journals
1. I need to request a new certificate of authorization to have a new stamp made. Is there a fee?
2. What do I do if I lost my stamp or journal?
Notaries public who have lost their stamp or journal must send a letter immediately by certified mail, or any other means of physical delivery providing a receipt, to the Secretary of State explaining what happened to their stamp or journal and, if applicable, a photocopy of a police report. The letter should include your typed or printed name, notary public commission number, and your signature. If your journal was lost, include the time period of the journal entries and the expiration date of your commission in the letter. Upon written request, the Secretary of State will send a duplicate certificate of authorization so you can have a new stamp made. (California Government Code sections 8206 and 8207.3(e).) Please refer to Contact Information for the mailing address.
3. What do I do with my notary public journal and stamp once my commission is no longer valid?
If any notary public resigns, is disqualified, removed from office, or allows his or her appointment to expire without obtaining reappointment within 30 days, all notarial records and papers must be delivered to the clerk of the county in which the notary public's current official oath of office is on file within 30 days. The notary public stamp should be destroyed. (California Government Code section 8209(a).)
1. How can I file my notary public oath and bond if the county offices are closed?
Many county clerk/recorder's offices are closed to the public; however, some are still accepting filings by mail. Contact your county clerk/recorder's office to see if they are accepting notary oath filings by mail. If so, the instructions are included in your commission packet.
If you are unable to file your oath and bond with the county clerk/recorder's office within the thirty-day filing period due to office closures, the Secretary of State's office will assist you once the county clerk/recorder's offices open back up. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org once your county clerk/recorder's office reopens.
2. Are the duties of a notary public considered essential services?
The California Secretary of State’s office encourages all notaries public to follow the guidance provided by public health officials at a federal, state, and local level should they choose to continue to perform notarial acts under the parameters of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20. California notaries public are not prohibited from performing a notarial act during a shelter in place order. However, preservation of the public health and safety of Californians, including all notaries public, is of the utmost concern so it is recommended that each notary public continue to stay apprised of and operate under any health directives from the Department of Public Health as the situation raised by the COVID-19 pandemic remains fluid.
The Secretary of State will not take action against a notary for having entries in their notary journal during this state of emergency provided the notary otherwise is complying with their notarial duties.
3. Can California Notaries Public perform a notarial act without the physical appearance of the signer (Remote Online Notarization)?
California Law does not provide the authority for California notaries public to perform a remote online notarization. The personal appearance of the document signer is required before the notary public. However, California citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can seek a mobile California notary public. California continues to recognize notarial acts performed outside of California if it is taken in accordance with the law of the place where the acknowledgment is made. (California Civil Code 1189(b)).
4. How do I get something notarized during California's shelter-in-place order?
During this unprecedented time, those seeking notarization may do so safely by contacting a mobile notary. Mobile notaries are individual notaries who travel to a customer's location to perform notarizations. When a mobile notary arrives at an agreed-upon location, they may practice physical distance while observing a customer sign a document. All California notaries public may consider the following guidelines to assist in maintaining proper social distancing:
- When you arrive at the customer's location or an individual appears before you, let them know that you want to maintain a safe distance to adhere to CDC guidelines.
- From a safe distance, verify the identity of the individual appearing before you.
- From a safe distance, perform the notarial act, including all journal entries.
- After you have made your journal entries, you may wish to step back to a safe distance while the individual signs your journal and enters their thumbprint, if needed, while still maintaining control and direct line of sight of your journal.
- Once the notarization is complete, return the notarized document back to the customer.
5. My Notary Public Commission was extended, but I have received a new commission package, what do I do?
Reappointing notaries public who have received a new commission package must file their oath of office and surety bond with the county clerk’s office within 30 days of the beginning of the term. Once the oath of office and surety bond have been filed, the commission extended by Executive Order N-63-20 and Executive Order N-71-20 is no longer active.