A Notary Public is an official appointed by the state government to serve as an impartial witness during the signing of important documents. It is estimated that in the United States, there is just one notary for 72 residents. This has increased the demand for public notaries in every state. Not only will becoming a notary look good on your resume, but you’ll also get to set your own schedule and earn well from the work.
Here is everything you need to know about the process of becoming a Notary Public in the United States. While the specific process and fees differ from state to state, here’s what it generally involves.
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Research state requirements to be a Notary Public
You first need to check if you meet the eligibility criteria to become a Notary Public in your state. The specific requirements differ from one state to the next. You should do your research on the requirements of your state by checking out the Secretary of State’s website.
There are however, some general requirements regardless of which state you belong to.
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- You must be at least 18 years old
- You must be a legal U.S. resident
- You must be able to read and write in English
If you have a criminal record, it could work against you if you’re trying to become a Notary Public.
Submit your Notary Public application
You can get your Notary Public application form from the office or website of the Secretary of State. Carefully fill out all the details asked for in the form using your full legal name. You must be honest when filling out this form as any lies or omissions can work against your endeavour to become a Notary Public. Pay the filing fee for the application form as per your state’s requirements. The fees will differ based on the state. You can find out what the fees will be for you at the Secretary of State’s website.
Depending on your state, you may be required to undergo training to become adept at the work a Notary Public carries out. States that require training are:
- North Carolina
- Delaware (training for electronic Notaries)
In other states, you can opt for voluntary educational courses. You need to make sure the training is approved by the state though. The Secretary of State’s office will have guidelines on approved training centers in your state. The National Notary Association is one such approved organization.
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Training courses are typically 3 to 6 hours long. Live seminars can cost between $100 and $200, but online training is usually less than $100.
Clear the exam
In some states, you will have to clear the notary exam before you can qualify as a Notary Public. These states are:
- New York
- North Carolina
Other states don’t mandate an exam. The exam typically lasts an hour. During the exam, you will be tested on:
- The responsibilities of a notary
- Handling different notary situations
- Notary law
- Identifying signers accurately
You’ll find resources that can help you on The National Notary Association.
Submit to a background check
Background checks aren’t mandated in every state, but they’re required in some. In other states, you can still submit to a background check, especially if you’ve been convicted of a felony in the past. Impartiality and credibility is important for a Notary Public. You can clear your name of any legal issues with a background check. These typically take 1 or 2 weeks to do and are carried out by third party screeners.
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Receive state commission certificate
Several states have organizations that can help you in the process of getting your commission certificate.
File your notary bond and take your oath
You will need to file your notary bond in most states to protect the public in case you make a mistake. Amounts can vary from $500 to $25,000, although in most cases, it is between $5,000 and $10,000.
You may also want to get an Errors and Omissions Insurance policy to protect yourself in case of claims made regarding any errors you’ve made during the process of notarization.
As a public official of the state, you will also be required to take an oath of office. Office terms can vary from 4 years to 10 years depending on the state. The oath of office must be taken in person. It cannot be done through fax, email, or telephone.
Put together your supplies
Your notary supplies or tools will typically include a journal and notary seal. You will have to record all notary work you carry out in the journal. You’ll get a good journal for $10. The notary seal must be stamped on all paper work that you notarize and can cost you $20 to $40. For details on notary seal requirements in different states, you can check this out.