Notary Frequently Asked Questions

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These questions and answers are for your general information only. They are not intended to cover all the material available in a Notarial Handbook.

Q. What is the process for becoming a notary in Ohio under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act?
A. To become a notary in Ohio you must complete the steps outlined here.

Q. What happens if I fail the test?
A. If you fail the test you will have to retest after a 30-day waiting period.

Q. Is an education course required for all notary applicants? What is the fee?
A. Non-Attorney New Notary applicants: a 3-hour education course is mandatory and must be taken through an authorized testing provider like the Columbus Bar Association. The fee for the education course is $130.00, which includes the 3-hour class, the test administered immediately after the class, as well as the course and test completion certificate.

Attorney New Notary applicants: a 3-hour education course is mandatory and must be taken through an authorized testing provider like the Columbus Bar Association. The fee for the education course is $75.00, which includes the 3-hour class, and the course completion certificate.

Renewal Notary applicants: a 1-hour education course is mandatory and must be taken through an authorized testing provider like the Columbus Bar Association. The fee for the education course is $45.00, which includes the 1-hour class, and the course completion certificate.

Q. Do I have to get a background check?
A. Non-Attorney New Notary applicants: Yes, a BCI background check is required within 6 months of your application submission. For scheduling information, click here.

Attorney New Notary applicants: No.

Renewal Notary applicants: Yes, a BCI background check is required within 6 months of your application submission. For scheduling information, click here.

Q. I do not live in Franklin County, can the Columbus Bar Association still help me apply for or renew my Ohio notary commission?
A. Yes. Under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act, a commission can be applied for in any Ohio county. Accordingly, no matter where you are in the State of Ohio, the Columbus Bar Association can be your single point of contact for the entire process of becoming a traditional notary or renewing your traditional commission.

Q. My commission has expired; do I need to retest and what are the requirements?
A. Yes. Under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act, once your commission has expired you are treated as a new applicant and must follow the New Notary Application requirements, including the BCI background check, Secretary of State New Notary Application, and the 3-hour education course and test. There is no grace period.

Q. My commission expires this year; how soon can I begin the process to renew my commission?
A. Under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act, you may begin taking the 1-hour course to renew your commission no sooner than 12 months prior to your commission expiration date. You may get your required background check no sooner than 6 months before submitting your renewal application to the Secretary of State. Your renewal application may be submitted to the Secretary of State no sooner than 90 days prior to your expiration date.

Q. What is the process for renewing my notary commission in Ohio under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act?
A. To renew your commission, you must complete the steps outlined here.

Q. What if I am an attorney, how do I become a notary in Ohio under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act?
A. For an attorney to become a notary in Ohio you must complete the steps outlined here.

Q. Where do I record my commission?
A. Under the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act, effective September 20, 2019, you no longer need to record your commission with the County Clerk of Courts. Instead, once your commission is issued, your commission information will be posted on a public searchable database on the Secretary of State’s website.

Q. Is my notary commission, if issued in one County, good only in that County?
A. No. Your commission is valid statewide, and the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act allows you to apply for and renew your commission in any Ohio county.

Q. When notarizing a document, must an individual personally appear before me in order for me to notarize it?
A. As a traditional notary, yes, they must personally appear and show proper identification. A court has held that the failure of a notary public to obtain some evidence of identification independent of a stranger’s representation is negligence as a matter of law.

If you have applied, successfully demonstrated the proper technology requirements, and been commissioned as an online notary by the Secretary of State, an individual does not need to personally appear before you, but must appear before you through the simultaneous audio-visual technology upon which the Secretary of State granted your commission and show proper identification through those means.

Q. Can I notarize a document when the person refuses to take the oath or “swear to God” because of religious reasons?
A. Yes, you may still notarize the document but you must ask the person to “affirm” that the facts stated are true to the best of his or her knowledge.

Q. What is the most money I can charge as a notary for a single signature I notarize?
A. Notary fees may not be calculated on a per-signature basis, but instead should be calculated per notarial act. A notary may charge up to $5.00 for any notarial act (acknowledgement or affidavit, etc.) that is not an online notarization. An online notary may charge up to $25.00 for any online notarizations. The Secretary of State may adopt rules to change the fees Notaries may charge in the future; any such changes will be updated on the Columbus Bar Association website as soon as they take effect.

Q. How do I go about changing my name or address since I received my commission?
A. You must contact the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office within 30 days of your name or address change.

Q. How do I go about ordering a stamp?
A. The Columbus Bar Association has all the notary supplies you need, from stamps and embossers to nameplates and ink. Click here to order your notary supplies.

Q. What kind of insurance do I need to protect myself against liability?
A. Errors & Omissions insurance is always a good idea. Click here for more information.

Q. Do I have to keep a journal of all my notarial transactions?
A. Under the Notary Modernization Act, a journal is only required for Online Notaries. Traditional notaries are not required to keep a journal, but are encouraged to do so.

Q. What is the process for becoming a New Online Notary in Ohio under the Notary Modernization Act?
A. Visit the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office for more information on becoming an online notary.

A Notary Public is a public officer appointed under authority of state law with power to administer oaths, certify affidavits and take acknowledgments.

No person may be appointed to public office as a Notary Public in Ohio unless he or she is 18 years of age or over and an Ohio resident (or a nonresident attorney who is licensed to practice law in Ohio and has a principal office in Ohio).