San Diego Notary

Common Questions and Answers

1Q. My neighbor of 20 years has asked me to notarize a document for her. Because I have known her all these years, do I still need to ask for proof of her identity?
A. Yes. Under newly enacted legislation, no acknowledgment may be taken or jurat executed on the basis of personal knowledge alone. Satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity must be provided and captured in the journal.

2Q. I am currently a commissioned notary public applying for reappointment without a break in my commission. Am I still required to submit my fingerprints each time I reapply?
A. Yes. Effective January 1, 2008, all notary public applicants, whether or not they have held a previous commission, must submit fingerprints to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the purpose of a background check. The DOJ will forward fingerprint images to the Federal Bureau of Investigation requesting a federal summary of criminal information that will be provided to the Secretary of State.

3Q. If a person was convicted of a DUI, petty theft, trespass, etc., will that person be disqualified from becoming a notary public?
A. The Secretary of State cannot make a determination as to whether or not a person meets the qualifications to become a notary public until a thorough background check has been completed. If you are concerned as to whether you may be disqualified from becoming a notary public based upon past conviction information, please refer to the Notary Public Disciplinary Guidelines (2001), which also includes a list of the most common disqualifying convictions. The disciplinary guidelines are available on the Secretary of State’s website or can be mailed to you upon request. Please refer to the inside front cover of this handbook for our website and mailing addresses.

4Q. I had a conviction over 25 years ago. Do I still need to disclose this conviction on my application?
A. Yes. There is no time limit for disclosure of convictions. If you have ever been convicted, including a conviction for a DUI, you must disclose the conviction on your application.

5Q. How soon can I take the test for reappointment if I currently hold a notary public commission?
A. To avoid a break in commission terms, you should take the exam at least six months prior to the expiration date of your current commission. Test results are valid for one year from the date of the examination. (Title 2, California Code of Regulations, section 20803)

6Q. I have been a notary public for over 20 years. Will I still be required to take the initial six-hour approved course of study?
A. Yes, initially everyone, including those notaries public who have held previous commission terms, are required to complete the six-hour course of study from an approved vendor prior to reappointment as a notary public. A list of approved vendors is available on the Secretary of State’s website or can be mailed to you upon request. (Government Code section 8201(a)(3))

7Q. Will I be required to take an approved course of study each time I apply for reappointment?
A. Yes, an applicant for notary public who holds a California notary public commission and who has completed the initial six-hour course of study from an approved vendor will be required to complete a three-hour refresher course of study from an approved vendor prior to reappointment as a notary public for all subsequent terms. In order to meet the requirement to take the three-hour refresher course, a person must apply for reappointment before the current commission expires. An applicant whose commission expires before application is made for a new commission must take an approved six-hour course, even if the applicant previously has completed an approved six-hour course. (Government Code section 8201(b)(2))

8Q. I have taken courses in the past prior to taking the exam. Will I still be required to take the six-hour course?
A. Yes, because in the past, you were not required to take these courses prior to being appointed as a notary public and those courses were not “approved” by the Secretary of State. However, now that mandatory education is one of the qualifications you must meet in order to become a notary public, you are required to complete the approved course of study in order to qualify. (Government Code section 8201(a)(3))

9Q. I have passed every notary public exam I have taken in the past. I even scored 100% on my last exam. Is there any way to skip the six-hour course and take the three-hour course instead?
A. No, the law specifically states that for appointments made on or after July 1, 2005, you must complete a six-hour course of study approved by the Secretary of State to qualify to become a notary public. (Government Code section 8201(a)(3))

10Q. I have completed my approved six-hour course of study and received my Proof of Completion. What do I do with it?
A. Once you have completed your six-hour course of study from an approved vendor, staple your Proof of Completion to the application and take both items with you to the exam.

11Q. I have changed my business, mailing or home address, what do I do?
A. Send the Secretary of State a letter or a change of address form by certified mail within 30 days of the change. (Government Code section 8213.5)

12Q. I have changed my business from one county to another, what do I do?
A. 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 an address change by certified mail within 30 days of the change. 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 refl ect the county where your most recent oath and bond are filed. (Government Code sections 8213 and 8213.5)

13Q. Am I required to see the person sign the document at the time I perform the notarization?
A. No. Not if you are preparing a certificate of acknowledgment. The document can be executed before the person brings it to you for notarization. In an acknowledgment, the signer must personally appear before you and acknowledge that the signer executed the document, not that the signer executed the document in your presence. However, when preparing a jurat, then the person requesting the jurat must appear before you, take an oath, and sign the document in your presence. In addition, for both an acknowledgment and a jurat, the notary public must certify to the identity of the signer. (Civil Code section 1189 and Government Code section 8202)

14Q. I lost my stamp or journal, what do I do?
A. Send a letter immediately by certified mail to the Secretary of State explaining what happened and, if applicable, a photocopy of a police report. Upon written request, the Secretary of State will send an authorization so you can have a new stamp made. (Government Code sections 8206 and 8207.3(e))

15Q. I have changed my name. What do I do?
A. Send a completed name change form to the Secretary of State and, once approved, you will be issued an amended commission that refl ects 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 in order for the name change to take effect. Within 30 days of the filing, you must obtain a new seal that refl ects 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. (Government Code sections 8213 and 8213.6)

16Q. I need to request a new certificate of authorization to have a new stamp made. Is there a fee?
A. No. However, you must send the Secretary of State a written request for a certificate of authorization. (Government Code section 8207.3(e))

17Q. How do I resign my commission?
A. If you want to resign your commission, send a letter of resignation to our office and within 30 days deliver all of your notarial journals, records and papers to the county clerk in which your current oath of office is on file, and destroy your seal. (Government Code section 8209)

18Q. I did not file my oath and bond on time, what do I do?
A. If you failed to file your oath and bond within the prescribed time, your commission is void. (Government Code section 8213(a)) If you wish to reapply, you must complete a new application, attach your Proof of Completion to the application and send it to our office with a check for $20.00. If you do not have your Proof of Completion, contact the vendor who provided the course of study to obtain a duplicate of your Proof of Completion. Keep in mind that the test results are only valid for one year from the date of the examination; and that the Proof of Completion of an approved course of study is valid for two years from the date of issuance. (Title 2, California Code of Regulations, sections 20803 and 20800.5)

19Q. Where can I get a live scan fingerprint form?
A. The live scan fingerprint form is available online at the Secretary of State’s website address listed in the front of the handbook or upon request from the Secretary of State’s office.

20Q. I have completed the course of study and taken the exam, but my current commission doesn’t expire until another four months. When will I receive my new commission?
A. Although you already have completed the course of study and taken the test, your commission for reappointment will not be issued earlier than 30 days prior to the expiration date of your current commission.


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