My business is required to notarize a large number of documents each year. How do I go about getting one of my employees approved as a notary public? What expenses are involved?
The answer will depend upon the physical location of your business, as the specific application process, eligibility, and costs for becoming a notary vary according to each state. The first step to becoming a notary is to contact your state government to check on eligibility requirements and to request an application. Authority to commission notaries usually falls to the Office of the Secretary of State, although there are exceptions
General guidelines applicable to most states require the individual be at least 18 years of age, a legal resident of the state in which he or she intends to become a notary and be able to read and write English. A notary applicant does not have to be a United States citizen. Most states will not allow an individual who has been convicted of a felony or of any crime involving fraud or dishonesty to apply for notary status
States may require a written test, formal notary education, the posting of a bond and of course filing fees. There are states that do not require a test (Minnesota); some that require a test without requiring notary education (Connecticut); and others that may require both notary education and a test (California, Pennsylvania). Information with regard to specific requirements of each state can be obtained from the websites of the National Notary Association (NNA) or the American Society of Notaries (ASN)
With regard to expenses, once again much of it will be state-specific. For example, the state may require the individual to take an educational course prior to application. The state will charge an application or filing fee. Some states, such as Nebraska and Illinois, require the applicant to purchase a bond, while others, such as Connecticut, do not. The notary bond protects the public (not the notary) from losses due to improper notarization. Bonds can be purchased from an insurance company that issues bonds or a bonding company (check your yellow pages). The cost of the bond varies but generally ranges from $50 to $250 per year depending on state requirements
In addition to educational, filing, and bonding expenses, some states require that the notary purchase a record book (or journal of notarial acts) and a stamp or a seal, while other states, such as Louisiana, consider the notary signature as the notarial seal. Even if these items are not required by a state, purchase of a notary stamp, seal, and record book is still recommended because their use is considered a “best practice" for notaries. With regard to expenses, it is important to note that even if the employer pays for these notary accoutrements, in most states the certificate, stamp (seal), and record book belong to the notary. This means that if the notary leaves his or her place of employment, these items do not stay at the business, but rather go with the notary.
Helen M. Kemp, Division Counsel and Assistant Director, Retirement and Benefit Services, Office of the State Comptroller, State of Connecticut