How to become a Notary Public in California

We have all seen signs for notary public services posted around our towns. Notary public services are available in post offices, banks, and even grocery stores.  A notary public can witness signatures on legal documents, administer legal declarations and oaths and can perform other acts depending on the area of the country that they reside.  Like most other states, to become a notary public in California there are specific qualifications that you need to meet before you can be certified.

To become a notary public in California, you must meet and complete each of these requirements in this order:

•Be at least 18 years of age or older

•Be a legal resident of California

•Complete a Secretary of State approved course of study

•Pass a written exam

•Clear a background examination

Prior to being appointed as a notary public you need to complete a Secretary of State approved course of study from an approved vendor.  To find a list of approved vendor in your area, consult the California Secretary of State’s website.

The classroom instruction will provide the prospective notary public with the training that they will need on the job.  They will receive a full understanding of the responsibilities and duties of a notary public.  They will also learn ways to effectively reduce legal action taken due to misconduct by a notary public.

All students will receive a certificate of completion when they have successfully completed the required six hour classroom instruction.  Once the mandatory course of study is completed, you will need to register for your exam.  The certificate is valid for up to two years, and you will need to present it to sit for your notary public exam.  If the certificate is expired prior to taking the exam, the classroom time will need to be retaken.

Once  notary public exam is passed, you will need to be finger printed and submit to a background examination.  Your exam will expire one year from the date that they test was taken.  If you do not submit for your background examination within the one year period, you will have to retake the test.

Effective January 1, 2008, all prospective notary publics must submit to a background examination by the FBI as well as the California department of justice.  The background examination must come back clean before appointment of notary public can be issued.  As part of your background examination, you will have to admit any arrest that has a pending court date as well as any convictions.  Convictions dismissed under Penal Code Section 1203.4 and 1203.4a must be disclosed even if they were dismissed.  If you have any questions about arrests or convictions, make sure to contact the California Department of Justice.

All convictions must be disclosed, and the California Secretary of State can recommend denial of your notary public license for any of the following reasons:

•Failure to disclose any arrest or conviction

•Conviction of a felony

•Conviction of a misdemeanor where less than ten years have passed since the completion of probation

When the background examination comes back, the notary public applicant will receive a commission packet.  The packet will include further instructions and a commission certificate.  You will also receive the forms that you need to have your seals manufactured and the instructions to have your final oath and bond issued.

Requirements to become a notary public in the state of California are always changing.  Be sure to check the Secretary of State’s website for any changes that could effect your notary public appointment.