What is the status of my notary public application?

Recently the notary application process is between 4-6 weeks from the day the State Exam is taken. In the past it has taken up to 16-18 weeks to hear back from the Secretary of State. Below is what you will see from the Secretary of State’s website:

The notary public application processing time varies depending on when we receive your correctly completed notary public application and when we receive your background check information from the California Department of Justice for your Live Scan fingerprints. Please refer to our Processing Times webpage for daily updated processing times.

What was my test score and did I pass the notary public exam?

We get this call quite often form our students. We sure would like to give you the results, however, we do not receive individual scores. Below is the answer from the Secretary of State:

Results from your Notary Public Examination will be emailed (if you provided an email address on the upper right hand corner of your application) or mailed via United States Postal Service 15 business days following the examination. Exam result information will not be discussed over the phone. If it has been more than 20 business days from your exam date, you can contact CPS HR Consulting at (916) 263-3520 or via email to notaryinfo@cpshr.us for assistance.

Submit Fingerprints via Live Scan

imagesWe are asked frequently about having the background check and how to go about it. The thing to remember is the live scan fingerprinting is the only thing you have to do to begin the background check. Once the live scan is complete the results are sent to the FBI and CA DOJ, then the findings are sent to the Secretary of State.

Below is information from the Secretary of State’s website.

Prior to granting commissions as notaries public, applicants must complete a background check. To assist in determining the fitness of the applicants to hold the position of notary public, applicants are legally required to be fingerprinted. (Government Code section 8201.1.) Applicants must have their fingerprints taken within one year of the exam date. If fingerprints are not taken within one year of the exam date the applicant will be required to retest.

Applicants must submit one set of classifiable fingerprints, acceptable to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) for each notary public commission term. Fingerprints must be submitted electronically through the DOJ’s Live Scan Program that takes and transmits fingerprints to the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Request for Live Scan Service (PDF) form is available online (NOTE: Internet Explorer works best on my computer; on Firefox the form is blank; you may need to try other browsers).

     Important: A notary public commission will not be issued until a report from the DOJ and the FBI is received stating that there is no criminal history. If the report identifies any criminal history, a notary public commission will not be issued until the criminal history is reviewed, evaluated, and found to be non-disqualifying.

For Live Scan locations and business hours see the DOJ’s website at ag.ca.gov/fingerprints/publications/contact.php.

You must bring the following to the Live Scan site:

  • A completed Request For Live Scan Service (PDF) form.
  • A current photo identification.
  • A fingerprint processing fee and an additional rolling fee. Please call the Live Scan site to verify the amount of the rolling fee.

Be sure to request a copy of your Request For Live Scan Service form and keep your copy until you receive your notary public commission. It is not necessary to mail a copy to the Secretary of State; the information will be transmitted electronically by DOJ.

Steps to Becoming a Notary Public

Steps to becoming a Notary Public:

  1. Register and complete an approved Notary Course.
    • The 6-hr course is for first time Notaries, returning notaries who wish a better understating of the latest notary laws, and notaries whose Commission has lapsed.
    • The 3-hr course is for returning Notaries whose commission has not had a lapsed.
      1. Note: The 3-hour course must be completed, notary application submitted, and pass the state exam prior to the current commission expiration date.
  2. Take the Notary State Exam proctored by the CPS
    • Applicants must present current valid photo identification
    • Applicants must submit:
      1. a notary application
      2. Proof of Completion Certificate for the required course of study
      3. a 2×2 color Passport Photo
      4. a check in the amount of $40 made payable to the Secretary of State
        • retakes $20
    • Test results are received 15 business days after testing
    • To pass a minimum score of 70 is required.
  3. Live Scan/fingerprinting for the background check
    • Complete background check as close to the exam date as possible
    • Commissions will not be approved without the background check
  4. It takes 4-12 weeks for the Secretary of State to commission notary applicants.
  5. Once the applicant is commissioned by the Secretary of State, he/she will receive by US mail:
    • 9×12 manila envelope that containing:
      1. the Notary Commission
      2. two copies of the Oath of Office
      3. information about obtaining a 15k Surety Bond, and the
      4. Authorization to Manufacture a Notary Public Seal/Stamp.
  6. Upon receiving the Commission
    • Purchase the 15K Surety Bond
    • Purchase the stamp/seal, and
    • Journal, if applicable (returning notaries may continue using the old journal)
    • Notaries have 30-calendar days from the date listed on the Commission (no late submissions will be accepted) to:
      1. Take both copies of the Oath of Office and the 15k surety bond to the county clerk/recorder office of the principle place of business as recorded on the Notary application (line 5)
        • At the county clerk/recorder’s office take, subscribe, and file the Oath of Office and 15k Surety Bond
        • Once completed notaries may begin to notarize signatures

What do I do if my name has changed?

This question is one that seems to mystify many notaries, since it is not something we do very often. However, the Secretary of State is  particular about making sure people keep current with changes to their notary commissions. Although there is not a specific time that you must notify the SOS that your name has changed, you must inform them. Once you have informed them and they have updated your commission, you have 30 days to complete the filing with the county clerk or a $500 penalty will be assessed.


The following is from the Secretary of State website:

     To change your name on our records and your notary public commission, you will need to complete a Name Change Application. 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 affect. 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. (California Government Code sections 8213 and 8213.6.)

Application Denial

We get calls from people asking about their arrest history; most calls are nothing to worry about, for instance, “I got a DUI last summer. Will that disqualify me from being a notary public?”

In most cases a single DUI is not enough to disqualify a person from receiving a notary commission. However, without a thorough background check, the Secretary of State cannot make a determination one way or another.

We have included the disqualifiers from the Secretary of State’s list.


The Secretary of State will recommend denial of an application for the following reasons:

  1. Failure to disclose any arrest or conviction;
  2. Conviction of a felony where not less than 10 years have passed since the completion of probation;
  3. Conviction of a disqualifying misdemeanor (involving moral turpitude) where not less than 5 years have passed since the completion of probation;
    1. The most common disqualifying convictions are (more…)