How to Become a Notary in Pennsylvania – A notary public is an official of integrity appointed by state government — typically by the secretary of state — to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-preventing tasks related to the signing of important documents.
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A notary public is an individual commissioned by the state to serve the public as an impartial witness in the taking of acknowledgments, affirmations of fact, oaths and affirmations, and in performing certain solemnities authorized by law. Notaries are regulated by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State.
In order to become a notary public in Pennsylvania, you must:
-Be 18 years old or older
-Be a resident of Pennsylvania or have a place of employment or practice in Pennsylvania
-Be able to read and write English
-Not have been convicted of a felony
-Not have had a notary commission revoked within the past 10 years
You must also:
-Submit an application to the Department along with the required fee ($40 as of 2019)
-Take and pass an exam administered by the Department. The exam covers Pennsylvania notary law, procedures and ethics
-Have your photograph taken for your commission certificate
-Take an oath of office before a prothonotary, clerk of courts or notary public
What is a Notary Public?
A notary public is an individual commissioned by the state to serve the public as an impartial witness in the taking of acknowledgments, affirmations of fact, jurats, oaths and affirmations. Notaries also certify or authenticate copies of certain types of documents.
The term “notary public” is derived from the Latin word notarius, meaning “notary” or “clerk.” The office of notary public is one of the oldest in history, dating back to ancient Rome. In Pennsylvania, the first notarial act on record occurred on October 28, 1664.
A notary’s primary duty is to deter fraud. By personally knowing the signer of a document and witnessing the signer’s execution of the document, the notary can discourage later claims that a document is fraudulent. In some instances, such as with a will or deed, a notary may be required by state law to prevent fraud.
Notaries also perform other fraud-preventing duties, such as certifying copies of originals and administering oaths and affirmations. When certifying copies, a notary compares the copy with the original document to ensure it is an accurate reproduction. When administering oaths or affirmations, a notary requires each person taking an oath or affirmation to raise his or her right hand and state that he or she swears (or affirms) that the statements in the document are true to the best of his or her knowledge.
Notaries are prohibited by law from giving legal advice or drafting documents for another person other than performing their official duties as described above.
The Duties of a Notary Public
A notary public is an official of integrity appointed by state government — typically by the secretary of state — to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-preventing acts related to the signing of important documents. Most notarial acts involve taking an acknowledgment or proving a signature. Other duties include administering oaths and affirmations, certifying copies of certain documents, and witnessing or attesting signature
s. Notaries are also sometimes called “notarial officers,” “signing agents,” or “Commissioners of Deeds.”
A notary’s primary function is to deter fraud. By verifying the identity of the signer(s) of a document and witnessing the signing, a notary can help prevent cases of identity theft and other types of fraud that might occur if someone were to sign another person’s name to a document. In addition, because notaries are impartial witnesses, their signatures and seals on documents can help deter False Personation — a serious felony charge in Pennsylvania.
Qualifications to Become a Notary in Pennsylvania
In order to become a notary in the state of Pennsylvania, you must:
Be at least 18 years of age
Be a resident of Pennsylvania or employeed in Pennsylvania
Be able to read and write English
Not have been convicted of a felony
Complete a notary education course approved by the Pennsylvania Notary Commission OR have completed a notary commission in another state within the last 10 years
Submit a completed application to the Pennsylvania Notary Commission along with the required fee
How to Apply to Become a Notary in Pennsylvania
To become a notary in Pennsylvania, you must:
Be at least 18 years old
Be a resident of Pennsylvania or have a permanent place of employment or practice in Pennsylvania
Be able to read and write English
Complete a Notary Education Course approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State
Pass the Notary Exam administered by the Department of State
Submit a notary application to the Department of State with the required fee
After you have completed all of the requirements, you will be sworn in as a notary public by a magistrate, judge, or clerk of court, and you will be given your official notary commission.
The Notary Exam
To become a notary in Pennsylvania, you must first pass a written exam administered by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The exam covers Pennsylvania notary laws and general notary procedures. You must score at least 80% on the exam to pass.
You can take the exam at any of the department’s Notary Public Exam Sessions, which are offered around the state on a regular basis. To find out when and where the next exam session will be held, call the department’s Notary Public Section at 717-787-5280 or toll-free at 1-866-223-2520.
There is a $40 fee to take the exam, which must be paid in cash or by check or money order made payable to “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
If you pass the exam, you will then need to submit a completed Notary Public Application, along with the required fee of $42, to the department.
After You Become a Notary
You must purchase a Notary Seal which consists of a Stamp and a Journal. The Stamp is an embossed seal with your name and the words “Notary Public”. The Journal is used to document each notarization you perform, including the type of document, the date, time, and location of the notarization, as well as the signatures of the parties involved.
You may purchase a Notary Seal from any stationary store or company that specializes in Notary Supplies. Once you have your seal, you must keep it in a secure location to prevent fraud or misuse.
As a Notary, you are required by law to maintain a record of every notarization you perform. This record is called a “Journal” and must be kept in either bound or electronic form. You must enter into your Journal every notarization you perform, including the type of document being notarized, the date and time of the notarization, the location of the notarization, as well as the signatures of all parties involved. Journals must be maintained for a period of 10 years and must be made available upon request to any interested party.
You must also maintain a surety bond in the amount of $5,000. This bond protects the public from any losses incurred as a result of your negligence or misconduct while performing your duties as a Notary. The bond must be maintained throughout your term as a Notary and can be obtained through any insurance company that offers surety bonds.
As a Notary, you are also required to complete continuing education courses on an annual basis in order to maintain your commission. These courses are generally offered by community colleges or private companies that specialize in Notary education.
Renewing Your Notary Commission
All notary commissions in Pennsylvania expire four years from the date of issuance. You must file a renewal application with the Department of State at least 30 days, but no more than 60 days, before your current commission expires. All current notaries who plan to renew their commissions must complete the following steps:
1. Complete the Notary Public Education Course
All notaries public who are renewing their commissions for the first time must successfully complete a three-hour notary public education course approved by the Department of State. The course must be completed no more than one year prior to filing the renewal application. A list of approved courses is available online.
2. Submit a Renewal Application
The renewal application must be signed and notarized and must include:
– The education certificate received after completing the Notary Public Education Course
– The required fee of $40 payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
– A recent color passport photo measuring two inches by two inches
– A self-addressed, stamped envelope (optional)
3. Have Your Signature Witnessed
The signature on your renewal application must be witnessed by a notary public or other authorized official. The witness must sign and date the application in the space provided.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I become a notary in Pennsylvania?
To become a notary in Pennsylvania, you must:
1. Be at least 18 years old.
2. Be a resident of Pennsylvania or employed in Pennsylvania.
3. Complete a Notary Public Application form and submit it to the county court administrator where you live or work.
4. Take the oath of office before a judge or notary public.
5. Purchase a bond for $10,000 from an insurance company authorized to do business in Pennsylvania.
6. Submit the bond to the court administrator.
7. Purchase a Notary Public Record book and keep it in your possession while you are serving as a notary public.
8. Pay a $42 filing fee to the court administrator