How to Become a Notary Public

Becoming a notary public is not difficult, but it will require a commitment. As a notary public, your main job is to authenticate the identity of the person signing a given document and to make sure that it is done of that person's own free will. To make sure the person signing the document is indeed right one, you will need to ask for a current photo I.D. that includes a physical description as well as a signature. Some acceptable types of identification include a driver's license, passport or military ID.

Qualifications

In order to become a notary public, you must be at least 18 years of age and have to officially reside in the state where you will be notarizing documents. Since each state has different eligibility requirements, you will have to check with the notary commission in your state to obtain an application. You can also get an application from the National Notary Association (NNA) website. Many states will require you to pay a filing fee and post a bond before you are officially allowed to notarize documents. Some states will also require that you pass a written exam and be fingerprinted before you can assume the office.

Getting Started

Once you have met all the requirements, you will be notified by the state that you have been approved for a notary commission and will take your oath of office in front of a notary public. You then need to make sure you pay any bond fee required by your state. Check with a licensed insurance broker to help you file your bond and other paperwork.

Next, you need to buy the official notary seal you will use when you notarize documents, and make sure you know whether your state requires an official inked rubber stamp. Once you are good to go, start giving out business cards to banks, law firms, insurance companies and any other types of businesses that might be in need of your notary services.

Job Duties

Because some documents like deeds, affidavits and powers of attorney are not legally binding unless they are notarized, you have to take your job seriously. Other documents are notarized simply to protect private entities and individuals from fraud. Since being a notary doesn't really require any special training or experience, you will not be expected to be anything more than an impartial witness.

You will not be permitted to give any kind of legal advice or prepare legal documentation. In fact, notarizing a document doesn't make it legal; it just means that notary public affirms that the person signing it has vouched that the contents are true. If, at any time, you are uncertain of the signer's identity, willingness to sign, or mental awareness, you can refuse to notarize the document; however, you can't deny service to anyone based on race, religion, nationality, or personal lifestyle choices.

For your services as a notary, you will receive a fee set by your particular state. Keep in mind that your notary fees will be subject to both state and federal income taxes but not self-employment taxes.