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Frequently Asked Questions -- Office of Notary and Authentications

Please contact us at: 202-727-3117 or [email protected] if you don’t find the answer you need.

 

Question: Does ONCA notarize documents?

Answer: No.

 

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

Answer:

The application to become or be reappointed as a notary is on our main webpage. The link is Notary Public Application.  This form must be used and be sure to read the instructions before completing the application.

You must use the link provided on this website (Notary Application).  We will no longer accept the PDF version of the application; if you submit that form through the mail or in-person it will be returned to you as denied.  Applications submitted in all CAPS in any field will be denied and returned to you for corrections.

Please spell out the full name of the street (Martin Luther King, Connecticut, etc.).

 

Question: How do I submit my application to become a notary or renew my commission?

Answer: Notary Applications should be submitted online.   Applicants will then be notified by email; this may take 2-3 days.  Once they have been reviewed and deemed sufficient, applicants will receive emails to sign via DocuSign, and proceed with payment by credit card (Payment is not applied to those commissioned only on behalf of the DC or federal government).  After all these requirements are completed, applications will be notified the application has been approved.  For details and other options, please see the application instructions and the Notary Public Handbook on our website. Please note the application cannot be saved so be sure to have all the required information including the letter(s) of request before you begin.

 

Question: How may I pay for Notary applications?

Answer: Notary Applications submitted online may be paid for by American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa.  If you choose to mail the application or bring it to the ONCA Office, you may also pay by check or money order, but this may delay the process.  These options are explained in the Application instructions and the Notary Public Handbook.

 

Question:  If I am applying to renew my commission, will I be notified when it is time to renew?

Answer:  No.  ONCA does not notify existing notaries when they must send in applications in order to not have a lapse in their commission.  There is a link to a timeline on our website, as to when your sufficient application must be in to avoid a lapse in your commission.  In general, the application must be approved at least 45 days before the expiration date of your current commission in order to not have a lapse in your commission.

 

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, American Express, Discover, Master Card or VISA. ONCA does not accept cash. The only exceptions are those who are applying as DC or Federal government employees.  Checks and money orders must be from a US Financial Institution in US Dollars payable to “DC Treasurer.”

Notaries must also purchase supplies, and except for those commissioned on behalf of the DC government only, are required to purchase a surety bond.  The entire cost for the 5-year term is about $200.

 

Question: Can I submit a handwritten notary application?

Answer:   No, 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) days 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 the cancellation of your commission and you will have to re-apply.

 

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: 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 or documents to which the notary has a direct beneficial interest. 

 

Question: Can I notarize for family members?

Answer: Notaries may not perform notarial services for their spouse or for any document to which the spouse has a direct beneficial interest.

 

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.  Positive identification is either by personal knowledge or a non-expired government ID with a photo or a signature.

 

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: 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: What is the criterion for performing a notarization?

Answer: A notary must establish four critical factors:

  1. That the person 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 person is able to understand what it is that they are signing.
  3. That the person is not being coerced but is signing of their own free will. Accordingly, this is applicable to every person.
  4. That the document is eligible to be notarized.

 

Question:  How do I notarize a Power of Attorney document?

Answer:  You may notarize a Power of Attorney (POA) document only if the individual granting the power of attorney is the person appearing before you.  While this may seem to contradict the statement that you are not notarizing the document, just that the person before you is that person, a power of attorney is granting specific rights and therefore the person granting the power of attorney must be the person having the document notarized.  Once the power of attorney has been given, the person who has been given it would be putting both his/her name and the name of the person who granted the power of attorney.  The notarized document would read, for example, Mark Smith (who gave the POA), by Steve Young (who was granted the POA), power of attorney.  It is Steve Young who provides the signature; “Mark Smith, by Steve Young, power of attorney."  Additionally, Steve Young should bring proof he has the POA.

 

Question: May I notarize documents that are not in English?

Answer:  Yes, but only if you are able to read and write in the language you are performing the notarial act. When you take the oath of office, you will be asked if you intend to notarize in languages in addition to English, and if so, you must sign that you are able to read and write in those languages. Existing notaries may continue to notarize documents in any language until they renew their commission.

 

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 most federal documents such as FBI fingerprints, original passports, I-9 forms as well as determinations of 501(c) (3) status. Please refer to our Notary Public Handbook for more details.

 

Question: What if I want 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; the drop-down section for Search for a Notary by address.

 

Question: What if I leave my employment, my business moves out of DC or I move out of DC?

Answer:  If your primary place of employment is no longer physically in the District of Columbia or if you are commissioned as a residential notary and you no longer live in the District of Columbia, you must resign your commission and by law you must send both your journal and sealer to the ONCA office.  Please see the links to PDF forms on our website that you must fill in and send to us.

 

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

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 sealer and then re-apply.  Please see the link on our website to the form you use to request the change and to upload the letter of request and proof you have notified your surety bond company of the change.

If you have been commissioned as a government notary only and leave your job, you must resign your commission.

 

Question: What if I change my name during my commission?

Answer:  If you change your name during your commission, you are required to send us a copy of the legal document showing the name change and proof you have notified your surety bond company of the name change.  You will also be required to purchase a new sealer and come into our office to provide us with the impression. Please see the link on our website to the form you use to request the change and to upload copy of the document showing the change of name and proof you have notified your surety bond company of the change.

 

Question:  What if my seal is lost or stolen?

Answer:   You must notify the ONCA office and file a police report.  You must also order a new seal with a distinctive mark (ex: *) to prevent against fraudulent use of the old seal and then come to our office to provide us an impression of the new seal. Please see the link on our website to the form you use to notify us the seal has been lost or stolen and to provide any other information you may have. If your journal is lost or stolen you must notify the ONCA office immediately.