California Notary FAQs

Qualifications

Every person appointed as a notary public must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older (there is no maximum age set by statute)
  • Be a legal California resident
  • Complete a course of study approved by the Secretary of State
  • Satisfactorily complete and pass a written examination prescribed by the Secretary of State
  • Clear a background check

How do I obtain a notary public commission?

In addition to completing the tasks outlined in the notary public checklist, 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 www.notary.cpshr.us or by calling CPS HR Consulting at (916) 263-3520.

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.

A list of Live scan providers can be found at: https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints/locations

*Note: Government fees are required for the State (DOJ) and Federal (FBI) level criminal history record checks. Additional fees may also be required (e.g., license or certification fees). For a list of current fee charges, please see the Applicant Fingerprint Processing Fee PDF by clicking here: https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/fingerprints/forms/fees.pdf

Locations identified by BNR (Billing Number Required) provide Live Scan services only to applicants with agency billing numbers identified on their Live Scan forms. These sites may collect rolling fees only — they do not collect any other fees.

Rolling fees vary from location to location and cover only the operator's cost for rolling the fingerprint images.

Applicants must present valid photo identification to the Live Scan Operator. Expired identification cards will not be accepted.

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 at this link: http://www.sos.ca.gov/notary/disciplinary-guidelines/

Convictions

State law requires all applicants be fingerprinted as part of a background check prior to being granted an appointment as a notary public. Information concerning the fingerprinting requirement will be mailed to applicants who pass the examination.

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 you have any questions concerning the disclosure of convictions or arrests, contact the Secretary of State prior to signing the application.

For specifics about your arrest(s) and or conviction(s), please contact the California Department of Justice at (916) 227-3849.

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
  • 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

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

Child Support

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.)

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 business days following the examination. Exam result information will not be discussed over the phone. If it has been more than 20 business days from your exam date, you can contact CPS HR Consulting at (916) 263-3520 or via email to notaryinfo@cpshr.us for assistance.

What is the status of my background investigation?

For up-to-date information about your background check, you can contact the California Department of Justice at (916) 227-4557. This is an automated line that will prompt you for the ATI (Applicant Tracking Identifier) number from the Request for Live Scan Service Form and your birth date.

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.

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 calling the California Department of Justice's automated line at (916) 227-4557.

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.

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 below for the mailing address.

Contact Information — Notary Public

Office Hours
Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(excluding state holidays)

Office Location
1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Mailing Address
Notary Public Section
P.O. Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277–0001

Phone Number
(916) 653–3595

Regional Office
The regional office, located in Los Angeles, provides in person services relating to authentications (Apostilles or Certifications). Please refer to our Regional Office webpage for the office address and services available.

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.)

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 for the name change to take effect. 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.)

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.

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.)

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 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.

How do I obtain a duplicate commission certificate?

A duplicate commission certificate can be obtained by written request to the Secretary of State. There is a fee of $10 per certificate. Please refer to Contact Information below for the Secretary of State's mailing address. (California Code of Regulations, Title 2, section 20802.)

Contact Information — Notary Public

Office Hours
Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(excluding state holidays)

Office Location
1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Mailing Address
Notary Public Section
P.O. Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277–0001

Phone Number
(916) 653–3595

Regional Office
The regional office, located in Los Angeles, provides in person services relating to authentications (Apostilles or Certifications). Please refer to our Regional Office webpage for the office address and services available.

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.

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.

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.

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