How do you become a Notary Public in California?

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Here is the check-list to become a Notary Public in California

To become a notary public in California, you will …

  • Need to be a legal resident of California reside in the State of California
    • You may have arrived in California in the recent past as there is no required duration of legal residency. You may have recently arrived from another state or country and still have a driver’s license from that state or passport from that country, as long as you are now a legal California resident.
  • Be at least 18 years old
    • If you are turning 18 soon, you might consider waiting until your 18th birthday before taking the notary exam as you will be submitting the notary application to the Secretary of State on the day you take your notary exam.
  • Be able to pass a criminal background check 
    • The Secretary of State will require you to complete a criminal background check by submitting fingerprints electronically. This is called live-scan and is available at all of our notary class and exam locations during the morning. The notary application will not be processed until the livescan background information has been submitted. The livescan fingerprinting images are sent to the FBI and the DOJ which run a comprehensive background check for any criminal convictions. The Secretary of State will not consider infractions (typical traffic tickets or parking tickets, for example) against the notary applicant but will recommend denial of the application for certain misdemeanors and all felonies.
    • If a notary applicant has a disqualifying misdemeanor in their background as an adult, from any state, and has not yet completed probation or less than five (5) years have passed since the completion of probation, the Secretary of State will recommend denial of the notary application. If the conviction is a felony, a minimum of ten (10) years since the completion of probation must have passed before the applicant will be considered for approval. Not all misdemeanors are disqualifying misdemeanors for the notary application. For example, a DUI, while usually a misdemeanor, is not usually an automatic disqualification. Here is a list of disqualifying misdemeanors as copied directly from the California Secretary of State website:
      • For additional information, please review the Disciplinary Guidelines.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.)

        A single disqualifying misdemeanor is not likely to cause the application to be rejected by the Secretary of State as long as more than five years has passed since the completion of probation. Felony convictions, however, will take a minimum of ten years between the completion of probation and the application submission for a notary application to be accepted.

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

  • Must take a state-approved notary educational course
    • The notary course can be taken at home by taking an online course that has been approved by the Secretary of State but the exam must be taken in-person before the exam proctors. While the course can be taken at home, the chances of passing the state notary exam are more than 60% higher at a minimum for those who attend the live instruction, and this is especially true for recommissioning notaries. Our statistics show someone taking a live notary seminar with us versus taking the notary course at home increase their chances of passing the exam and we have isolated some of the reasons we think cause this.
      1. The state exam is given on the same day as the in-person class and the applicant has not lost the significant recall due to a lot of time passing since studying.
      2. Taking the in-person class requires a person to focus entirely on the subject for just one day and during that time, cannot be distracted by phone calls or other day-to-day demands of family or work.
      3. Notaries who are recommissioning, especially after numerous commissions are usually surprised by what they have forgotten over the past four years, or what they did not actually know or understand.  Even though a recommissioning notary is permitted to take a 3-hour class rather than a 6-hour class, as long as their commission is still current, should always opt for the 6-hour class. It saves a lot more time in the long run by far and doing the 3-hour class allows for everything to be done on the same day.
      4. While the curriculum for the home study program is state-approved, there is a lot of information in notary law that is not applied on a daily basis and sometimes can be difficult to digest without being able to ask questions of an instructor. Remember, the goal is to pass the exam on the first try! We offer our home-study course for free, in its entirety for anyone wishing to study before coming into the class. That gives them an opportunity to prepare well in advance if they choose and the class can be used as a review.
  • Must take and pass the state notary exam
    • The exam is 30 questions, multiple choice and you will have 50 minutes to complete the exam.
    • You must take the exam in person as it cannot be taken online.
    • You will need to obtain a score of at least 70% to pass. Please note that not all questions are weighted the same for scoring.
    • Passing the notary exam is much easier for those taking the live, in person 6-hour course and besides, you can do the course, the exam and even the live scan for the criminal background check on the same day as the class if you take the 6- hour course. That is not true for 3-hour courses or at home studies. If you want to make this process super simple with the least amount of time necessary, don’t take your class at home. Take the live 6-hour class and the same-day exam. You will be very glad of the time you spent with us as it will save a lot of time in the end.