The Notary Exam
The State Exam is administered by Proctors employed by Cooperative Personnel Services (CPS). The exam is NOT administered by the Secretary of State. Once the notary exam has been completed and processed results are issued by email 15-20 business days from the date of the notary exam. You can also review results on-line only after the 15-20 processing period. Telephone inquiries are not accepted.
The notary state exam is 30 multiple choice questions. You must pass with 70%.
New Notary Education Requirement
Before you can be issued a notary public commission you must satisfactorily complete an approved SIX-hour notary course of study. Which means you must be in attendance for a full SIX-hours. (Government Code section 8201.) Please note that all persons being appointed, no matter how many notary public commission terms that person has held in the past, are required to take the six-hour course of study.
You must attend a 6-hour notary class if you are a brand new notary applicant. If you are renewing your notary commission, you must have taken at least (1) six hour notary course to be eligible to take only the (3) hour notary course of study requirement.
Notary Public Commission -vs- Notary Public Licence
Why is a Notary Public issued a Notary Commission and not a Notary License?
The Secretary of State does not issue license’s only commissions. The notary public commission expires every “4” years.
Definition of commission
a : a formal written warrant granting the power to perform various acts or duties
b : a certificate conferring military rank and authority; also : the rank and authority so conferred received a lieutenant’s commission in the army
: an authorization or command to act in a prescribed manner or to perform prescribed acts : charge a commission to serve as notary public
a : authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another
b : a task or matter entrusted to one as an agent for another executed a commission for me while he was in Singapore
a : a group of persons directed to perform some duty The state set up a commission to study the proposed merger of the school districts.
b : a government agency having administrative, legislative, or judicial powers regulatory powers exercised by the Federal Trade Commission
c : a city council having legislative and executive functions She served on the city’s water commission.
State Processing Time
California Secretary of State Notary Division Processing Times
The time it takes to process a document varies depending on the type of request submitted and how the request is submitted.
Notary Public Applications
For applicants seeking reappointment, a commission will be issued 30 days prior to expiration of your current commission if you have complied with all requirements to become a notary public. The issuance of a notary public commission may be delayed pending completion of a background check by the California Department of Justice.
Making sure you follow all the necessary steps required will greatly increase your success.
Notary Public Applicant Check List
- Complete Approved Education
- Register for the Exam (Registering for our class automatically registers you for the notary exam)
- Take the Exam (The notary exam is taken directly after class)
- Submit Fingerprints via Live Scan (Live Scan Fingerprinting is taken in class)
- Await Commission Packet
- Purchase Notary Public Materials
- File Notary Public Oath & Bond
On the day of class you will have your passport photos taken, and your fingerprints scanned. Having your fingerprints taken on the day of class expedites your Commission Packet. Any applicant that has not had Live Scan Fingerprinting performed for a background check will NOT be issued a Commission Packet. Your notary passing results are valid for (1) full year.
How soon can I take the notary exam for renewing
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 to resign my notary public commission
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 of 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 long will it take to get my renewing commission
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 to obtain a duplicate notary commission
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 for the Secretary of State’s mailing address. (California Code of Regulations, Title 2, section 20802.)
Bring to Class
After your registration has been processed for the notary class you will automatically be registered for the California notary exam to be administered on the same day of class. On the day of class you will be issued an application to be completed prior to the notary exam.
You must bring with you the following items:
You will be required to have a Check or Money Order payable to the Secretary of State in the amount of $40. This fee is required by the California Secretary of State for processing your application. Credit Cards or Cash are NOT accepted.
1. One of the following Photo Identification: (current or issued within the last 5 years)
o A driver’s license or State DMV I.D. card
o A Canadian or Mexican Driver’s license
o U.S. Passport or Passport issued by a foreign government
o A U.S. Military I.D. Card
No other forms of photo identification are allowed.
2. A completed application – ( Will be issued on the day of class)
3. Check or Money Order payable the Secretary of State in the amount of $40 ( this is for application fee and processing)
4. All Applications for appointment must include a 2″ x 2″ color passport-type photograph of yourself attached to the application ( Passport photos will be taken and processed on the day of class)
5. Two (2) No. 2 lead pencils
Dress attire is casual
Renewing Notary Education Requirement
If you are a current California Notary with a valid notary commission and have completed an approved (6) six-hour course of study at least once, then you will be allowed to take the notary (3) three-hour approved refresher course for reappointment.
Note: The (3) refresher course is acceptable only if the notary public takes the (3) hour approved course of study, submits an application, passes the notary exam prior to the expiration of the current notary public commission. Should the notary public commission expire before the course completion the notary must take another (6) Six-hour approved course.
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.
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?
Yes. All notary public applicants, whether or not they have held a previous commission,
must submit fingerprints to the California Department of Justice for the purpose of a
background check. The Department of Justice 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.
Will I be required to take an approved course of study each time I apply for reappointment?
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
Can a six-hour notary public education course be taken in place of a three-hour refresher course?
Yes. A six-hour approved notary public education course satisfies the requirement
for a three-hour refresher course. A six-hour approved education course always
satisfies the education requirement, regardless if you are a new applicant or applying
I did not file my notary oath and bond on time. What do I do?
If you are a new applicant and took an approved six-hour notary public education
course, you must attach a current proof of completion certificate to a new
application, along with a 2” x 2” color passport photo of yourself and a check for
twenty dollars ($20). You will also need to have your fingerprints retaken at a Live
• 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 no longer meets the education requirements
because your current commission has expired. You will need to attach the proof of
completion certificate for the six-hour course to a new application, along with a
2” x 2” color passport photo of yourself and a check for twenty dollars ($20).You
will also need to have your fingerprints retaken at a Live Scan site.
• 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 application, along with a 2” x 2” color passport photo of yourself and a check
for twenty dollars ($20). You will also need to have your fingerprints retaken at a
Live Scan site.
I have changed my business, mailing or home address. What do I do?
Send the Secretary of State a letter or a change of address form by certified mail or
any other means of physical delivery that provides a receipt within 30 days of the
I have changed my business from one county to another. What do I do?
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
or any other means of physical delivery that provides a receipt 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 must 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
I lost my notary stamp or journal. What do I do?
Send a letter immediately by certified mail or any other means of physical delivery that
provides a receipt 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
I have changed my name. What do I do?
Send a completed name change form to the Secretary of State. 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 in order 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.
I need to request a new certificate of authorization to have a new stamp made. Is there a fee?
No. However, you must send the Secretary of State a written request for a certificate of
What parts of my notary public application are public information?
Only your name and address may be provided to the general public. All other information provided on a notary public application is confidential. Under Government Code section 8201.5,
What is the Secretary of State contact information?
California Secretary of State Contact Information – Notary Public Division
Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
(excluding state holidays)
1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Sacramento Office – Driving Directions
Notary Public Section
P.O. Box 942877
Sacramento, CA 94277–0001
How long is the process to become a Notary Public?
The process for becoming a Notary Public in the state of California can take 8-12 weeks. This usually will apply to new notary applicants, however can apply to renewing notary applicants. This waiting time includes the processing and issuing of Notary Public exam results usually 10-15 days from exam date. Also, receiving the Notary Commission packet – once you have met all requirements, your commission/notary license will be sent to you by U.S. mail 2-3 months after your background (fingerprints) were taken. Depending on the amount of applicants, holidays etc. You can expect to wait 2-3 months.
What are the total cost to becoming a Notary Public?
|$40||State Exam Processing Fee
(Paid to Secretary of State)
|$89-$95||Live Scan Fingerprinting|
|$15-$25||2×2 “Passport” Photo|
|$45-$119||Notary Supplies (Journal, stamp, fingerprint kit)|
|$20-$100+||Oath of office, filing and recording fees|
|$325-$609||Total costs for 4 year commission.|
Do I need to be Live Scan Fingerprinted?
Yes. The Department of Justice nor the FBI is not allowed to share your information from previous Live Scan Fingerprinting background checks with other agencies. Your background results are confidential and can not be shared.
Your Live Scan form acts as a release for a criminal history response to be sent to requesting agency, for this application that would be the Secretary of State Notary Division. A NEW application is required each time a criminal history is requested. Previous Live Scan Fingerprinting results or information can not be utilized.
Also, when renewing your notary commission every “4” years, you will be required to submit new Live Scan Fingerprinting.
Notary Exam Information
The Notary Process:
The California Notary Exam is administered by CPS HR Consulting . Prior to being allowed to test, the proctor will take and verify your application along with your passport photo, Proof of Completion and your fee of $40 Payable to the Secretary of State. The proctor will also verify your identity. Notary Exam Information
About the Notary Public Examination:
The Notary Public Examination consists of:
50 Minutes to complete
Must pass by 70%
All material in the California Notary Handbook is subject to examination.
Results from your Notary Public Examination will be sent or emailed approximately 15 business days following the exam. Result information will not be discussed over the phone. A SCORE OF 70 IS PASSING.
Bring the following materials to the Notary Exam:
1. Photo Identification (one from the list below), must be current or issued within the last 5 years. No other forms of photo identification are acceptable.
• A driver’s license or State DMV I.D. card
• A Canadian or Mexican Driver’s license
• U.S. Passport or Passport issued by a foreign government
• A U.S. Military I.D. Card
2. A check, money order, or cashier’s check for the appropriate fee made payable to The Secretary of State, with the candidate’s name and last four digits of the Social Security number written on it. The candidate’s name must be preprinted on the check; temporary checks are not accepted. Cash is not accepted.
3.. A completed application form – available at: California Notary Public State Application
4. Two (2) sharpened No. 2 lead pencils
During the exam all personal belongings must be placed in the designated location. Neither CPS nor the Secretary of State is responsible for personal belongings at the test; therefore, CPS recommends bringing only your I.D., application materials, and a check or money order into the exam room.
What is the Reschedule and Cancellation Policy?
All sales are final. We understand there may be a need to reschedule your class date, however there are a few requirements to qualify for rescheduling without incurring a fee. You must contact our office by phone 12 business days prior to your current scheduled notary course date. Requesting a new notary course date after the 12 days will result in a $40 rescheduling fee. No shows will not be issued a refund for any reason, and may be subject to full class fees if requesting a new class date.
What is a subdivision map?
Because subdivision maps usually are drawn on a material that will not accept standard stamp pad ink and other acceptable inks are not as readily available, acknowledgments for California subdivision map certificates may be notarized without the official seal. The notary public’s name, the county of the notary public’s principal
place of business, and the commission expiration date must be typed or printed below or
immediately adjacent to the notary public’s signature on the acknowledgment. (Government
Code section 66436(c))
What is a Certificate of Authorization to Manufacture a Notary Seal?
A vendor or manufacturer is authorized to provide a notary with an official seal only upon presentation by the notary public of a certificate of authorization. ( this is issued to the notary public by the secretary of state)
A vendor of official seals shall note the receipt of certificates of authorization and
sequential identification numbers of certificates presented by a notary public upon a certificate
A copy of a certificate of authorization shall be retained by a vendor and the original, which shall contain a sample impression of the seal issued to the notary public, shall be submitted to the Secretary of State for verification and record keeping. The Secretary of State shall develop guidelines for submitting certificates of authorization by vendors.
Any notary whose official seal is lost, misplaced, destroyed, broken, damaged, or is rendered otherwise unworkable shall immediately mail or deliver written notice of that fact to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State, within five working days after receipt of the
notice, if requested by a notary, shall issue a certificate of authorization which a notary may use to obtain a replacement seal.