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 Notary Modernization Act?
A. To become a notary in Ohio you must complete all the steps outlined below:

  1. Obtain a BCI background check. For your convenience, the CBA offers BCI background check services at our office in Columbus, Ohio (beginning September 20, 2019). To be qualified to be commissioned as a notary public, a person must not have been convicted of, pleaded guilty or no contest to a disqualifying offense.
  2. Within 6 months of completing your background check, you must successfully complete a 3-hour notary class and pass the accompanying test through an authorized education and testing provider like the Columbus Bar Association. The class and test are available online, or in-person at the CBA office in Columbus, OH (beginning September 20, 2019). The fee for the class and test is $130.00 paid directly to the CBA.
  3. Complete and submit a New Notary Application electronically to the Secretary of State’s office. That application must include your name, residential address, date of birth, BCI background check, signature and evidence that you have successfully completed a 3-hour education course and passed the accompanying test through an authorized education and testing provider. A $15.00 application fee must be paid directly to the Secretary of State with a credit or debit card when the application is submitted.
  4. The Secretary of State will process your completed application and, if approved, it will issue your commission directly to you after you have affirmed your compliance with the rules. Your commission will expire 5 years from the date is was issued and your commission information will be posted on a public searchable database on the Secretary of State’s website.

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. Please note that your test must be successfully completed within 6 months of your BCI background check.

Q. Is the education course optional or required and what is the fee?
A. The 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.

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 Notary 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 to help walk you through the entire process of becoming a traditional notary or renewing your commission.

Q. My commission has expired; do I need to retest and what are the requirements?
A. Yes. Under the Notary 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 Notary Modernization Act, you may begin taking the course to renew your commission no sooner than 90 days prior to your commission expiration date. You may get your required background check no earlier than 6 months before submitting your renewal application.

Q. What is the process for renewing my notary commission in Ohio under the Notary Modernization Act?
A. To renew your commission, you must complete all the steps outlined below beginning 90 days prior to your expiration:

  1. Obtain a BCI background check within 6 months of submitting your renewal application. For your convenience, the CBA offers BCI background check services at our office in Columbus, Ohio. To be qualified to be commissioned as a notary public, a person must not have been convicted of, pleaded guilty or no contest to a disqualifying offense.
  2. Within 90 days of your commission expiration date, you must successfully complete a 1-hour notary continuing education class through an authorized education provider like the Columbus Bar Association. The class is available online, or in-person at the CBA office in Columbus, OH. The fee for the class is $45.00 paid directly to the CBA and includes the class and the completion certificate.
  3. Complete and submit a Renewal Application electronically to the Secretary of State’s office. That application must include your name, residential address, date of birth, BCI background check, signature and evidence that you have successfully completed a 1-hour notary continuing education course through an authorized education provider. A $15.00 application fee must be paid directly to the Secretary of State with a credit or debit card when the application is submitted.
  4. The Secretary of State will process your completed renewal application and, if approved, it will issue your commission directly to you after you have affirmed your compliance with the rules. Your commission will expire 5 years from the date is was issued and your commission information will be posted on a public searchable database on the Secretary of State’s website.
Q. I submitted my renewal application, how long does it take to process?
A. Due to the volume of applications received, please allow 4 to 6 weeks to process your application.

Q. What if I am an attorney, how do I become a notary in Ohio under the Notary Modernization Act?
A. For an attorney to become a notary in Ohio you must complete all the steps outlined below:
  1. Successfully complete a 3-hour notary class through an authorized education provider like the Columbus Bar Association. The class is available online, or in-person at the CBA office in Columbus, OH. The fee for the class $75.00 paid directly to the CBA.
  2. Complete and submit an Attorney Notary Application electronically to the Secretary of State’s office. That application must include your name, attorney registration number, residential or business address, signature and evidence that you have successfully completed a 3-hour education course through an authorized education provider. A $15.00 application fee must be paid directly to the Secretary of State with a credit or debit card when the application is submitted.
  3. The Secretary of State will process your completed application and, if approved, it will issue your commission directly to you. Your commission will be issued for your lifetime, assuming no discipline or disqualifying offenses have been committed. Your commission information will be posted on a public searchable database on the Secretary of State’s website.
Q. Where do I record my commission?
A. Under the Ohio Notary 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 Notary 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.

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.

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).