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Frequently Asked Questions -- Office of Notary and Authentications

Question:  Does ONCA notarize documents?

Answer:    No.

Question:  How may I pay for Notary applications or Authentications?

Answer: ONCA accepts checks, money orders, VISA, Master Card, Discover and American Express. ONCA does not accept cash for any transaction. Checks or money orders must be in US dollars and drawn on a US Bank or from US Financial Institution. We cannot accept funds drawn on a foreign bank. Money orders from American Express or Western Union may be accepted. 

Question:  May I submit my document by mail and/or in person?

Answer:  Yes. Both Notary applications and authentications may be submitted by mail or in person. Authentication requests must include a cover letter with the specific request and a pre-paid self-addressed return envelope. They should also include contact information in the event there are questions.

Question:  How do I become a notary or become reappointed as a notary?

Answer:  Mail or deliver a completed application, with a check or money order for $75 and related materials to the following address:

Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications
441 4th Street, NW
Suite 810 South
Washington, DC 20001

Question:  What is the criterion for performing a notarization?

Answer:  A notary must establish three critical factors;

  1. That the person [signatory] before them is who they hold themselves out to be and are able to establish this through the provision of proper, unexpired identification;
  2. That the signatory is able to understand what it is that they are signing;
  3. That the signatory is not being coerced but is singing of their own free will.  Accordingly, this is applicable to every signatory and includes but is not limited to minors, the visually impaired.

Question:  Can I submit a handwritten notary application?

Answer:  Only typed applications will be accepted.

Question:  How long does it take to become a notary?

Answer:  It takes about 45 - 60 days if the information on the application is accurate, for the completion of all requirements to become a notary, including application review, approval of documentation, orientation and other necessary requirements.

Question:  When may I purchase my supplies and surety bond?

Answer:  You may only purchase your supplies and surety bond (when applicable) after you receive your Appointment Notice from the Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications. This is the formal notice sent to all eligible applicants; it will explain in detail exactly what supplies are needed and it includes the surety bond form required by our office. It states the beginning and end date of your commission. The Appointment Notice is generally sent about two weeks prior to the commissioning date. New notary applicants will be told of their commissioning date at the orientation session; renewal applicants may determine their date by going to the link on our website. For those working with an outside organization on their application and supplies, you may receive some non-date specific supplies prior to receiving the Appointment Notice, but you may not order or receive date specific supplies or the surety bond prior to receiving the Appointment Notice.

Question:  How long do I have to claim my commission once I receive my Appointment Notice?

Answer:  As stated in the Appointment Notice, you have sixty (60) dates from the beginning date of your commission to come into the ONCA office and complete the oath of office.  Failure to do so will result in cancellation of your commission and you will have to re-apply.

Question:  Is there a cost involved with becoming a Notary?

Answer:  Yes. There is a $75 non-refundable fee for a new or renewal application. This may be paid by check, money order, VISA or Master Card. ONCA does not accept cash. The only exceptions are those who are applying as DC or Federal government employees.

Question:  What fee can a notary charge?

Answer:  Government-employed notaries are prohibited by law from charging for their notarial services while on their tour of duty. The fees of all other notaries public shall not be more than $5 per notarial act.

Question:  What if I need to be a Title Producer (Agent)?

Answer:  Title Producers (Agents) are a separate and distinct category from a notary public.  One may become a notary public and not be a title agent or become a title agent and not become a notary in the District of Columbia. Title agents do not come under the purview of the Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications. The District of Columbia has no such entity as a “signing agent.”  If you wish to become a Title Producer, contact the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking; www.disb.dc.gov, 202 727-8000.

Question:  Where can I find a list of notaries near me?

Answer:  You can search the Notary Public Map

Question:  Can I notarize my own signature?

Answer:  A notary is prohibited from notarizing his or her own signature and cannot serve as a witness for his or her own documents.

Question:  Can I notarize for family members?

Answer:  Notaries should refrain from performing official acts for members of their immediate families. Doing so is not against the law, but it may result in a conflict of interest and gives the matter an air of impropriety. Notaries are also prohibited from carrying out an official act for any matter in which they are personally involved, either directly or indirectly. 

Question:  What type of documents will ONCA authenticate?

Answer:  ONCA authenticates documents notarized by a District of Columbia notary or those certified by a Department Head (ex: Birth or Marriage Certificates). Department Head Certificates must be from the District of Columbia. ONCA may authenticate copies of some foreign documents such as birth or marriage certificates if they have been notarized by a DC notary. 

Question:  How is a document authenticated?

Answer:  ONCA puts the Seal of the District of Columbia on both Apostilles (for countries that are part of the Haque Convention) and Foreign Certificates (all other countries) and staples the entire documents.  Effective January 6, 2016, ONCA will no longer use ribbons on any documents.

Question:   Are there any documents that may not be notarized or that ONCA cannot authenticate?

Answer:  Yes. ONCA cannot authenticate federal documents  (examples, FBI documents, original passports, I-9 forms) or any that have not been notarized by a DC notary public.

Question:  Do I have to be present to have a document authenticated?

Answer:  No; ONCA is only authenticating that the notary public is valid. The office is not authenticating the actual document so anyone may bring the document to the office or the document may be mailed to the office along with the proper amount of money and a pre-paid self-addressed return envelope.

Question:  What does an authentication mean?

Answer:  When ONCA authenticates – puts an Apostille or Foreign Certificate on a document it is only validating that the notary public or department head is in fact a legitimate notary or department head or representative of the Superior Court in the District of Columbia.  We are not authenticating, confirming or authenticating the document itself.  For example, we do not determine the status or legitimacy of a school, college, university, financial institution or any other record; the country to which the document is presented retains the right to accept or deny the actual information. 

Question:  What is the cost?

Answer:  The cost is $15 per document.

Question:  Are there other restrictions on the role of the notary?

Answer: District of Columbia notaries public do not have the authority to notarize birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates, and federal documents such as FBI fingerprints, original passports, I-9 forms as well as well as determinations of 501(c)(3) status.  

District of Columbia notary may never do the following:

  • Take his/her own oath, affidavit. Acknowledgement or depositions
  • Serve as a witness for his/her own documents
  • Notarize his/her own signature.

 Notary Public should not carry out an official act for any matter in which personally involved, either directly or indirectly. Notaries should refrain from performing official acts for members of their immediate families. Doing so is not against the law; it may result in a conflict of interest and gives the matter an air of impropriety.

Question:  May A Notary Act as a Representative for a Company on an I-9 Form?

Answer:  No – not in an official capacity as a notary.  Notaries Public do not have the authority to notarize or perform other notarial acts on federal documents including I-9 forms.  Additionally, the I-9 forms do not require notarization.  If a notary wishes to act as a representative of a company he or she may choose to do so, but not in an official capacity as a notary public. A notary public may not use the title, embosser or any other designation that could even imply the individual is a notary. 

Question:  Can a notary give legal advice?

Answer:  A notary public who is not admitted to the District of Columbia bar may not perform the services of an attorney at law.                                                                                      

A notary who is not an attorney is prohibited from the following:

  • Giving legal advice
  • Representing a person in any trial in District of Columbia courts
  • Preparing any written instrument affecting the title to real estate
  • Giving advice in the administration or probate of estate of decedents

Question: Can I notarize the signature of someone who is not present?        

Answer:  No. Always require that the signer personally appear before you. Be sure that you positively identify the individual.

Question:  What is a notary’s jurisdiction?

Answer:  District of Columbia commissions can only be used in the District of Columbia. You may not notarize documents anywhere outside of the District of Columbia. You may only notarize within the geographical borders of the District of Columbia.

Question:  What if I am commissioned through my company and leave?

Answer:  If you have a business commission and leave your employment, it is up to you and your employer if you may take your commission with you.  If you may, then you must get a new letter of request from your new employer.  The letter must be on letterhead with a DC address and phone number, must include your name as it appears on your commission, the expiration date of your commission and a brief statement as to why the new company needs you to be a notary.  If you are transferring from business to residential, you must write your own letter with the same information.  You must also notify your surety bond company.  If your company will not allow you to keep your commission, you must resign, send us your logbook and seal and then re-apply.