How to Become a Notary Public in California

The epic guide to the entire process

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The process to become a notary public in California involves quite a few steps and can be very confusing, but don't worry. We wrote this guide to make the steps clear and easy.

If you have any questions about the process after reading this guide please contact us so that we can use your feedback to improve the information on this page.

We want this page to be a one-stop resource for people that want to become notary publics in California, whether they take our notary course or not.

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Step 1: Do You Qualify?

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The state of California requires that notary publics meet certain qualifications. You must be at least 18 years of age, be a legal resident of California, complete a course that is approved by the Secretary of State, and clear a background check.

If you want more information about what's looked for in the background check please visit the state's website.

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Step 2: Complete a Course

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If you meet the minimum qualifications, congratulations! It's time to start the process of becoming a California notary public.

The state requires that all new notary publics take an approved six hour course. They also allow a three hour course for notary publics who are renewing their non-expired commissions.

Since you're reading this guide you'll probably need a six hour course.

There are typically two different types of courses that are offered: in-person and online. Both offer advantages and disadvantages.

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In-Person Notary Training Courses

  • More expensive
  • Typically can accomplish everything in one day
  • Can be difficult to schedule

These are usually a lot more expensive than online courses, but they usually offer the convenience of completing all of the steps in the same day. In addition to completing the required number of hours of training they typically also administer the state's exam, live scan fingerprinting, and other required items.

Of course, this convenience comes at a price. These courses typically cost a lot more than purchasing all of the required items individually and require you to schedule a full day out of your busy schedule.

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Online Notary Training Courses

  • Less expensive
  • Not an all-in-one solution
  • Easier to fit in busy schedules

These are usually a lot more economical than in-person courses because companies providing these courses do not have to rent a venue, pay an instructor, create books, etc.

Students with busy schedules typically also prefer online courses. Instead of having to get away from your busy schedule for a full day these courses typically allow you to work at your own pace and to stop and resume the course as many times as you need.

Many online students also have other jobs that do not allow them to get away so they complete the course content during lunch or other breaks. The other steps in the process can also be fit into a busy schedule.

Want to read more about our online course?

Our online course is approved by the California Secretary of State, is super-convenient and can be stopped and resumed at any time, and is priced a lot lower than our in-person competitors.

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Step 3: Take the State's Exam

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The next step is to take the state's exam if you took an online class or if your in-person class didn't include it.

The state allows one company, CPS HR Consulting, to administer the exam. You can see the dates and locations for upcoming exams along with fee information on their website.

The state's exam can be tricky if you're not prepared. That's why you should look for a notary course that not only provides you with the content to study, but also gives you practice exams. Testing your knowledge before taking the exam is very important to your success.

We've heard from some of our customers that one-day in-person courses can sometimes lack this essential exam experience and that they failed the exam when they took that type of program.

So they came to us to get practice exams and ended up having to pay for two courses.

Please note that practice exams should test you on the material that's covered on the state's exam. The questions should be different than the state's questions.

It would be both unethical and illegal if the questions were the same. If you find any product claiming to be the actual state exam questions then run away! That's a sure sign not to trust that company.

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What to Bring to the Exam

  • Photo ID
  • Payment
  • Application Form
  • 2"x2" color passport photo
  • Proof of Completion from training course
  • Two sharp #2 pencils.

You can find the application on the state's website.

Your training course provide will provide you with a proof of completion certificate at the end of your course. This is typically done at the end of the day of training for in-person courses.

But online courses have different ways of giving you this certificate. Some email it to you and some give it to you automatically after completing the course on their website.

Either method works and you get your certificate but if you're under any time pressure (maybe you're taking the exam the next day, for example) it's best to go with an online course provider that automatically generates the certificate so you don't have to wait for someone to manually create it and send it to you in your email or, worse yet, in the regular mail.

And if you're wondering, we automatically give you a certificate when you complete our online notary class.

Here's another tip. Some online course providers either charge extra for the certificate, which is very sneaky. They get you in the door with a low price only to charge you more for the thing that you actually need to give to the state.

Some online courses are deceptive and say that their course is "free," but then they charge for the certificate. We don't think that's really "free."

And if you're wondering again, we don't charge anything extra for our certificate. It's included as part of the price of the course.

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Step 4: Submit Fingerprints

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After you pass the exam it's time to submit live scan fingerprints. The state wants to help save you time and money so you don't have to do this until after you pass.

The state will use these fingerprints to conduct your background check.

The state provides a resource for where to find a live scan location near you on the State of California Department of Justice's website.

The cost of live scan fingerprinting can vary greatly. The last time we looked at the list there were fees as low as around $10 at some local police stations up to around $60 at private live scan locations.

The price you'll pay will depend on what's available around you or how far you're willing to drive.

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Step 5: Wait

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The next step is to wait. Seriously.

The state will eventually contact you regarding the status of your application. When your application is approved and you have passed the background check they will send you a notary public commission packet that includes the following:

  • A cover letter that has instructions for what to do next
  • Instructions for filing
  • Your notary public commission certificate
  • Two Notary Public Oath and Certificate of Filing forms
  • A Certificate of Authorization to Manufacture Notary Public Seals
  • A list of Authorized Manufacturers of Notary Public Seals
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Step 7: Buy Your Stuff

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You can purchase your notary supplies after you receive your packet. The state only allows certain companies to create your notary seal (stamp) and they'll only make it for you if you have the Certificate of Authorization from your commission packet.

You'll also need to purchase a notary public journal.

There are a lot of companies that are authorized to create your seal and their prices can vary greatly.

It's also time to purchase your notary public bond. The state recommends to check your local yellow pages under the heading "Bonds" to find a company.

As a training provider we don't sell supplies or bonds ourselves, but since a lot of our students ask us where to get them we've partnered with a company that supplies everything in nice packages. You can find more information on our notary supplies page. And, yes, they are authorized by the state.

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Step 7: File Oath and Bond

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The final step is to file your oath of office and bond with your local county clerk's office.

Make sure to do this within 30 days of receiving your commission or you'll have to start everything over again.

In Conclusion...

There are a lot of steps, but it's not that complicated

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We hope that this information helps you along your path to become a California notary public.

We've tried to find the balance between letting you know everything necessary while still trying to be brief.

Some of the steps above have additional sub-steps, but those should be covered in your notary training course. At least we know that our course covers them. We really don't know if our competitors do.

Want to read more about our online course?

Our online course is approved by the California Secretary of State, is super-convenient and can be stopped and resumed at any time, and is priced a lot lower than our in-person competitors.

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