Frequently Asked Questions

Is a notary still allowed to perform in-person notarizations?

 

Yes, notaries public can still perform notarial acts in person during the state of emergency but should use their best judgement on whether the notarial act is considered essential and abide by social distancing, CDC and MDH guidance in the conduct of any essential notarial services. Additional guidance for performing in person notarization amid this current public health crisis can be found here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/notaries-precautions-coronavirus​

Does the Secretary of State have a list of communication technology vendors?

 

You can find a list of authorized Remote Online Notary (RON) Vendors at: https://sos.maryland.gov/Documents/ListAuthorizedRONVendors.pdf

Does the Secretary of State endorse a specific commercial brand of communication technology?

 
No, the Secretary of State does not endorse a specific commercial brand of communication technology platform.  However, the RON vendor must be authorized in Maryland in order for you to use that RON Vendor.

Can I charge more than a $4 notary fee to cover my communication technology vendor costs?

 

No, $4 is the fee that may be charged under Maryland law. The $4 fee is the maximum fee that the Secretary of State may allow for an original notarial act as set forth in § 18-107.​ 

Will a notary public’s information be published by the Secretary of State?

 
Yes. The business phone number provided by each notary will be published on the SOS webpage. Anyone searching for a notary on the SOS notary search page must search for a specific name before a notary's name and information is displayed.  The following public information will display when a specific notary is searched: the notary's applicant ID, name, county of commission, expiration date, and business phone number.
 
Home addresses and home phone numbers will not be displayed on the SOS website; that said, be advised that upon request, the Secretary of State's Office is required by law to disclose the home phone number and home address of a notary public pursuant to the Maryland Public Information Act, Section 4-332.

Will the Secretary of State publish a list of notaries public authorized to perform remote notarizations?

 

Yes. The SOS will publish a list of notaries authorized to perform remote notarizations. The list will be posted on the SOS website.

How do I verify that someone is a valid notary?

 

You can verify that someone is currently commissioned as a Notary Public by searching for them at this link:  https://sos.maryland.gov/Notary/Pages/NotarySearch.aspx.  If you cannot locate the Notary Public at this link, you may also contact us by email at dlnotary_sos@maryland.gov or by phone at 410-974-5521

Who may apply for appointment as a notary public?

 

To be appointed as a notary public, an individual must:

1. be at least 18 years old;
2. be of good moral character and integrity;
3. be a resident of the state; or have a place of employment or practice in the State;
4. if living in the State, must be appointed by the senator representing the district in which you live; and if living outside the State, be a resident of a state that allows Maryland residents working in that state to serve as notaries public in that state; and
5. effective October 1, 2021: all new notary applicants, must complete a Course of Study and pass an examination; all renewal applicants, must complete a Course of Study and pass an examination.

Can I live outside of Maryland and still become a Notary Public in Maryland?

 

Yes.  You must live or work in Maryland.  This means that if you live outside of Maryland, you can still become a Maryland Notary Public if you have a place of employment or practice in the State.

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How do I apply to become a Notary Public?

 

You must apply online at:  https://www.egov.maryland.gov/sos/notary/#/home.  Click on “Apply for a New Notary Commission”.  Before you start your application, be sure to have all of the items you need to complete your application.  See “What do I need to complete my application to become a Notary Public?” for that information.

What do I need when filling out my application to become a Notary Public?

 

1. Legislative district where you reside.Legislative district where you reside.  You can find it here: www.mdelect.net.  At this link, you will enter your address on the left hand side of the page.   Your State Senator and District Number can be found on the left next to “State Senate” (found above the State Delegate(s) information).
2. Copy of Driver’s License or other valid government issued ID.
3. MVA Change of Address Card.  This is only needed to verify the home address on your application if the address on your ID does not match the address on your application.
4. Contact information for 3 references (name, address, phone number, email).

 

 

What if the address on my ID does not match the address on my application?

 

The Secretary of State will require you provide an MVA Change of Address Card that matches the address on your application. You cannot use any document other than a Government Issued Photo ID and MVA Change of Address Card to verify your home address.

Can I use my work address to complete an application instead of my home address?

 

No.  The law requires that you be commissioned in the county in which you reside.  Therefore, your home address is required.  Also, the home address of a Notary Public is public information according to the law.  You will need to provide your work address in addition to your home address but you cannot substitute your work address for your home address.  We will verify the home address provided on your application by matching it to the address on your driver’s license or other state issued government photo ID.

If I live out of state, how do I select the county where I will be commissioned?

 

If you live outside of the State but work in the State, you should select the County in Maryland in which your place of employment or practice is located.

If you do not have a physical work address in Maryland, you will want to select the County in Maryland in which you most regularly work.  If you do not have a physical work address in Maryland, you will also need to provide a written explanation of what it is that you do that qualifies as working in Maryland.

How to submit proof of working in Maryland?

If you submit an application with an out-of-state address for both your home and work addresses, you will be sent an email asking you to provide proof of working in Maryland.  Send a reply email providing proof that you work in the State of Maryland, such as a contract, bill, or other document showing that you provide services while at a location in the State.

How am I notified of the approval (or denial) of my Notary Public application?

 

You will receive an email stating that your application to become a Notary Public or to renew your Notary Public application has been approved (or denied).  All correspondence from our office is sent via email.  Be sure you provide a correct email address that you regularly check with your application.

How long does it take to learn whether my application to become a Notary Public has been approved/denied?

 

If your Senator has opted-out of reviewing notary applications, the Secretary of State reviews the application.  It usually takes 2-3 business days for a determination to be made on an application.  The most frequent reasons it takes longer than that are: 1.) References do not respond, and 2.) The application is missing information and we have not received a response from the applicant with the information needed to complete the application.

If your Senator reviews notary applications, it is up to the Senator on how long it will take to make a determination on an application.  It usually takes between 2 and 8 weeks; you should check in on the status of your application at least once every two weeks.  To check the status of your application, click here:  https://www.egov.maryland.gov/sos/notary/#/home, then click “Check Status of a Submitted Application.”

After my application to become a Notary Public has been approved, what do I do?

 

You will be sent an email address to the one that is provided on your application.  This email will include instructions on what happens next.  You will be directed to appear at the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the County in which you reside (if you reside out-of-state, you will be directed to the County that you select, most likely the County in which you work).  When you appear before the Clerk of the Court, you will take your oath of office and receive your Notary Public commission.  There is an $11.00 fee for this action, separate from the application fee paid to the Secretary of State.

Do I have to take a class or pass a test to become a Notary Public?

 

No.  While a class or test is not required, it is important that you educate yourself on how to act as a Notary Public.  You can do that by reviewing the Notary Public Handbook (you must confirm that you’ve read and understand this Handbook when applying and renewing your commission).

In addition to the Handbook, various Community Colleges in Maryland offer a class on the basics of being a Notary Public.

Effective October 1, 2021, notaries will be required to pass a class and a test to become a Notary Public and to renew their commission as a Notary Public.

Can I use a nickname on my Notary commission?

 

No.  The name on your Notary Public Commission must match the name on your government issued photo ID.  If your name is Jonathan James Smith, the following names would be acceptable:
1.
Jonathan James Smith
2. Jonathan J. Smith
3. Johnathan Smith
4. J. James Smith
5. J. J. Smith

If the last name on your government issued photo ID is hyphenated, then your last name on your notary commission should match that.  Nicknames cannot be used.  Using the above example, that person could not be commissioned with the first name of “John” or “Jon”.

ACan I add a title to the end of my name on my commission, such as Ph.D. or Esq.?

 

No.  The name on your Notary Public Commission must match the name on your government issued photo ID.  See “Can I use a nickname on my Notary commission?” for further explanation on name usage.

How do I renew my Notary Public commission?

 

You must renew a Notary Public commission is to renew online at:  https://www.egov.maryland.gov/sos/notary/#/home.  Click on “Renew Your Notary Commission”.  Before you start your renewal application, be sure to have all of the items you need to complete your renewal application.  See “What do I need to complete my Notary Public renewal application?” for that information.

What do I need when filling out my Notary Public renewal application?

 

1. Legislative district where you reside (find it here:  (www.mdelect.net).
2. Copy of Driver’s License or other valid government issued ID.
3. Change of Address Card (needed to verify the home address on your application if the address on your ID does not match the address on your application).

 

When can I renew my Notary Public commission?

 

The renewal period begins 60 days before the expiration of your notary commission.  You may renew your commission up to 30 days after your expiration date.  If you do not renew within 30 days after your expiration date, you must re-apply for a new notary commission.


If you will be out of town during your renewal window, please notify our office prior to leaving the area.  We will instruct you on how to renew early.  You may contact by phone at 410-974-5521 or by email at dlnotary_sos@maryland.gov.

    How long does it take to learn whether my application to renew my Notary Public commission has been approved/denied?

     

    It usually takes 2-3 business days for a determination to be made on an application.  The most frequent reasons it takes longer than that are: 1.) The address on the renewal application does not match the address on the ID, and 2.) The application is missing information and we have not received a response from the applicant with the information needed to complete the application.

    Do I need to get sworn in every time I renew?

     
    Yes.  You must take the oath of office at the Clerk of the Court every time you are issued a new commission.

    How long do I have to get sworn in?

     

    You must appear before the Clerk of the Court and be take the oath of office within 30 days of the day on which your commission is issued.  That means 30 days from the date you are sent an email informing you to appear before the Clerk of the Court to receive your commission.

    Can I be commissioned in the county where I work?

     

    If you live in Maryland, you are required by law to be commissioned in the county in which you reside.  If you are a Maryland resident and work in a different county from where you live, you must be commissioned where you live.

    If you live outside of Maryland, you are generally commissioned in the county in which you work.

    Can I transfer my notary from another state to Maryland?

     

    No.  Notary commissions are not transferrable to Maryland.  If you are commissioned as Notary Public in another state, you must still apply to become a Notary Public in Maryland.  Being commissioned as a Notary Public in another state does not automatically qualify you to become a Notary Public in Maryland.

    How do I get a copy of my commission?

     

    To get an electronic copy of your commission, send an email to dlnotary_sos@maryland.gov requesting an electronic copy of your commission.  We will email a PDF of your commission to you.

    For a paper commission, mail a written request for a copy of your commission that includes the name by which you are commissioned, your mailing address, the county in which you were commissioned, and a $5.00 check or money order, payable to “Secretary of State”.  Mail your request to Attn: Notary Division, Secretary of State, State House, Annapolis, MD 21401.

    How do I change my name after I’ve been commissioned as a Notary Public?

     

    You may complete a name change online at:  https://www.egov.maryland.gov/sos/notary/#/home.  Once there, click on “Update Your Notary Information”.  You will update your name.  Be sure the name matches how you want it to appear on your notary commission.  You may choose one of the following:

    Have a commission issued with your new name on it.  This commission will be issued to the Clerk of the Court in the County in which you reside.  This commission for your name change will expire on the same date of your current commission.  You do not receive a new four year commission when changing your name.  It will cost $6 to have the Secretary of State issue the commission under your new name.  You will have to pay the Clerk of the Court $11 to be sworn in under this new name.  You will need to get a new notary seal with your new name on it if you are commissioned under your new name.

    Update your profile but do not request that we issue a commission with your new name on it.  This means that you will complete your current commission as a Notary Public under the name by which you were originally commissioned.  You will not need to pay a fee to the Secretary of State to update your profile and you will not need to pay a fee to appear at the Clerk of the Court to receive a commission with your new name on it.  Also, you will continue using your notary seal with your old name for the duration of the commission.  If you renew after this commission expires, you’ll be required to be commissioned under your new legal name.

    How do I change my address?

     

    You can change your address online here:  https://www.egov.maryland.gov/sos/notary/#/home.  Click on “Update Your Notary Information” and then update your address.

    Do I have to get sworn in if I change my address?

     

    No.  Changing your address does not require you to appear before the Clerk of the Court to be sworn in again.

    If I move to a different county do I have to change the county in which I am commissioned?
    No.  Changing your address does not require you to appear before the Clerk of the Court to be sworn in again.

    If you renew your commission, the county in which you are commissioned will change at that time.  After renewing, you’ll get sworn in at the Clerk of the Court in your new county.

    What must the notary’s stamping device contain?

     

    The notary public’s official stamp can be an ink stamp or embosser or it can also be an electronic device or process. The notary public’s official stamp must be capable of being copied together with the record to which it is affixed or attached or with which it is logically associated. A notary public’s stamping device is a public seal for purposes of § 8–607 of the Criminal Law Article.

    The official stamp of a notary public shall include:

    • The name of the notary public as it appears on the notary's commission;
    • The words “Notary Public”; and
    • County (or City of Baltimore) in which the notary was commissioned. For notaries public who reside in Maryland, this will more than likely be the county (or Baltimore City) of residence. For notaries public who reside out of state, this will always be the county (or Baltimore) where the notary public was commissioned.
    • Expiration date of the notary’s commission, unless the expiration date is part of the notarial certificate or affixed to or logically associated with the record being notarized; notarial certificates will be discussed in a later section of the Handbook.  Because all notarial acts require a notarial certificate, the expiration date shouldn’t need to be part of a notary’s seal.

    What do I do if my notary stamping device is lost or stolen?

     

    If a notary public’s stamping device is lost or stolen, the notary public or the notary public’s personal representative or guardian promptly shall notify the Secretary of State on discovering that the device is lost or stolen.  Notify the Secretary of State via email at dlnotary_sos@maryland.gov.  Your email should provide the name by which you are commissioned, your address, the county in which you are commissioned, and the date on which your commission was lost or stolen.  If your commission was stolen and you made a police report, you may attach a copy of that police report or provide the police report number and police department to which you made the report.

    How can I destroy my notary stamping device?

     

    The notary public shall disable the stamping device by destroying, defacing, damaging, erasing, or securing it against use in a manner that renders it unusable upon resignation from, or the revocation or expiration of, the notary public’s commission, or on the expiration of the date set forth in the stamping device, if any.

    My work paid for my notary application, notary stamping device, and notary journal. If I leave my job, can I take it with me?

     

    Yes. Each notary public is responsible for the security of their stamping device. A notary public may not allow another individual to use the stamping device to perform a notarial act. The notary public’s official stamp is the property and responsibility of the notary alone. Even if an employer purchased the stamp for a notary public, the stamp is the property and responsibility of the notary public, it is to remain in the custody and control of the notary public named on the stamping device alone. If the notary public leaves their employer, the notary public is strongly encouraged to take the notary stamp with them.

    How long must I keep my record book (register of official acts)?

     

    The notary public shall retain the journal for 10 years after the performance of the last notarial act contained in the journal.

    What records must a notary keep?

     

    Each notary public shall maintain a journal which chronicles each the notary public’s notarial acts.  Each entry in a journal shall be made contemporaneously with performance of the notarial act. Each journal entry shall contain the following information:

    • the date and time the notarial act was performed;
    • a description of the record, if any, and type of notarial act;
    • the full name and address of each individual for whom the notarial act is performed;
    • if the identity of the individual is based on personal knowledge, a statement to that effect;
    • if the identity of the individual is based on satisfactory evidence, a brief description of the method of identification and the identification credential presented, if any, including the date of issuance and expiration of any identification credential, and the identification number associated with the identification credential; (e.g. driver’s license number, etc.)
    • the fee, if any, charged by the notary public, if no fee is charged, the record should indicate no fee; and
    • an indication of whether an individual making a statement or executing a signature which is the subject of the notarial act appeared in the notary public’s physical presence or remotely by means of communication technology.

    Can a notary public be removed from office?

     

    On behalf of the Governor, the Office of the Secretary of State may deny, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend, or impose conditions on a commission as notary public for any act or omission that demonstrates the individual lacks the honesty, integrity, competence, or reliability to act as a notary public, for the following reasons:

    • a failure to comply with this title or regulations adopted under this title;
    • a fraudulent, dishonest, or deceitful misstatement or omission in the application for a commission;
    • conviction of a felony or crime involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit;
    • a finding against or an admission of liability in a legal proceeding or disciplinary action based on fraud, dishonesty, or deceit;
    • failure to discharge any duty required of a notary public, whether imposed by any federal or state law or regulations adopted by the Secretary of State;
    • use of false or misleading advertising or representation by the notary public representing that the notary public has a duty, right, or privilege that the notary public does not have; and
    • denial, refusal to renew, revocation, suspension, or conditions of a notary public commission by another state.

    May a Notary Public verify the information contained on an I-9 form?

     

    No.  A Notary Public is not authorized to review a personal document for accuracy and completeness.  A Notary Public should not be editing or completing a document on behalf of a signer.  The only part of a document that a Notary Public should complete is the notarial certificate on the document explaining the action of the Notary Public.

    What do I do if I am asked to notarize a document without a certificate?

     

    If a certificate is not a part of the record being notarized, a notarial officer will be required to affix a certificate by securely attaching it to the record.  More information on completing notarial certificates can be found in the Notary Public Handbook.

    Can I notarize for family?

     

    A notary may not perform a notarial act with respect to a record to which the notary or the spouse of the notary is a party, or in which either the notary or the spouse of the notary has a direct beneficial interest. This action is in violation of State Government Article, §18– 203(b), Maryland Annotated Code. A notarial act performed in violation of this provision is voidable.

    While the law only prevents a notary from performing a notarial act in which the notary or the spouse of the notary has a direct beneficial interest, we recommend a notary to refrain from performing a notarial act:

    • For all members of their immediate family even if not under a legal duty to refrain for that member of your family; and
    • With regard to any matter in which the notary is personally involved, even if indirectly or where there is no beneficial interest.

    There are over 80,000 notaries in Maryland; you can find a Notary Public at your bank, law office, and other local establishments that is not related to you.

    What if I am named in the document that I’m being asked to notarize?

     

    A notary cannot perform a notarial act with respect to a record to which the notary is a party or in which the notary has a direct beneficial interest.

    A notary public may perform a notarial act for any person (other than the notary or their spouse) to any instrument which involves the corporation of which the notary public is an employee and to which the notary public is not a party.

    Who must I notarize for?

     

    A Notary Public is an Officer of the State of Maryland.  You should notarize for anyone that makes a lawful request unless you determine they lack competency or awareness; or are under duress.

    See “Can I deny a request for a notarization?” for reasons to deny a notarial at.

    Can I deny a request for a notarial act?

     

    The most frequent reasons to deny a notarization is that you cannot satisfactorily identify a signer, a signer does not appear to be competent or aware, or the signer is under duress.  A notary may refuse to notarize a document if the notarization would result in an illegal or improper act or the notary knows that the transaction is fraudulent. There may be other valid reasons to deny a request for notarization.  If you are unsure of a situation, please do not hesitate to email us at dlnotary_sos@maryland.gov or call the Notary Division at 410-974-5521.

    More information on proper identification, competency and awareness, and duress are discussed in Part IV of the Notary Public Handbook.

    I am commissioned in ____ County. Can I notarize anywhere in Maryland?

     

    Yes. If you are a Maryland Notary Public, you may notarize anywhere in the State of Maryland, regardless of the county in which you are commissioned.

    Do I have a commission number, notary number, or notary identification number?

     

    No.  Maryland does not issue a commission number.  You are identified by your name, the county in which you are commissioned, and your expiration date.  The Notary Applicant ID number that you need to renew is not a commission number and should not be used when notarizing documents.  If you are asked to provide a notary identification number on a notarization, complete the blank by writing “n/a” as that is not applicable for Maryland notaries.

    Where can I act as a Notary Public?

     

    You may only act in your capacity as a Notary Public if you are physically present in the State of Maryland at the time of the notarization.  Where the document will be used is not relevant; you may notarize a document that will be used outside of Maryland.  The important thing is that you are located in Maryland since that is where you are authorized to act as a Notary Public.

    If you are commissioned as a Notary Public in a state other than Maryland, you cannot use your Maryland notary seal when notarizing in that other state.

    Can anyone with a professional license, such as a licensed attorney, take the place or act as a Notary if one is not available?

     

    No. Even if one has other professional licenses in Maryland, they cannot act as a Notary unless they are a Notarial Officer, as defined in the law.  Notarial officers are:

    • a notary public of the State;
    • a judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of a court of the State; or
    • a magistrate appointed by a court of the State.

    Can I notarize a document for use outside of Maryland?

     

    Yes.  Where the document will be used is not relevant to your ability to notarize it.  However, you must be physically present in the State of Maryland when acting as a Maryland Notary Public.

    What is an electronic/remote notarization?

     

    Electronic notarizations where made legal by the passing of the Maryland Uniform Electronic Transactions Act in 2000.  Electronic notarizations still require the personal appearance of a signer before the notary.  The signer must still be in the physical presence of the Notary Public when electronically affixing their signature.  More information about electronic notarizations can be found in Part IX of the Notary Public Handbook.

    Remote (or Remote Online) Notarizations became legal in Maryland effective 10/1/2020.  Remote notarizations allow someone to appear before the notary using communication technology rather than in their physical presence as is currently required under Maryland law.  Specific technology is required to perform a remote notarization.  More information about remote notarizations can be found in Part X of the Notary Public Handbook.

    What documents can I notarize?

     

    You can notarize a signature on any document.  The type document is not relevant.  What is important is that you are performing one of the duties of a notary public.  Different types of notarial acts are found in Part VIII of the Notary Public Handbook.

    Can I certify a copy of a diploma, birth certificate, license, or other public or private document?

     

    Effective October 1, 2020, a notary public may certify a copy of a record in someone’s possession.  See Part VIII of the Notary Public Handbook for more information about this type of notarial act.

    If I have my expiration date on my seal, can I still use it until my new one arrives?

     

    No, unless you are able to remove the incorrect expiration date from your seal.  If you have a rubber ink stamp, you can remove the incorrect expiration date. A notarial certificate should include a line where the notary can affix their expiration date.

    If the certificate that appears on the document has the state and county pre-printed, but the state and county is wrong, can I cross them out and note the correct state and county?

     

    Yes.  While you should not make edits to the body of the document or a certificate that is pre-printed on a document, correcting an error for the state and county listed on the notary certificate is acceptable.  The certificate should always list Maryland for the state.  The county entered on a notarial certificate should be the county in which you are located at the time of the notarization (not the county in which you are commissioned unless that also happens to be where you are notarizing).

    More information on affixing and properly completing notarial certificates can be found in Parts VII and VIII of the Notary Public Handbook.

    What is the certificate which is completed by a notary public?

     

    Effective October 1, 2020, the law requires that a certificate is completed for each and every notarial act. If a certificate is not included on the record being notarized, a notarial officer will be required to affix a certificate in a manner addressed below. A different type of notarial certificate is required for each type of notarial act. Examples of those certificates are included in Part VIII of the Handbook, where each type of notarial act is addressed. You will need to know what is being asked of you by the person requesting the notarial act in order to affix the correct notarial certificate.  Additional information about notarial certificates can be found in Part VII and Part VIII of the Notary Public Handbook.

    What charges and fees may a notary public make?

     

    In accordance with State Government Article §18-107 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, a notary public may not charge more than $4.00 per notarial act.  The Secretary of State is authorized to issue regulations regarding other notarial fees.  Other fees are that a notary may charge include:

    • A notary public may demand and receive a fee of not more than $4.00 for the performance of an original notarial act;
    • When a notary public is requested to notarize more than one copy of the same document, where the copy or copies have been signed at the same time by the person or persons, the notary may demand and receive not more than $4.00 for notarizing each signature on the original or first copy of the document, and may demand and receive not more than $1.00 for each signature on each additional copy of the same document;
    • When a notary public is requested to make reproductions of a notarized document by photocopying or other means, the notary may demand and receive not more than $1.00 for each copy furnished;
    • A notary public may charge $2 for certifying a copy of a record in the notary’s journal;
    • A notary public may demand and receive reimbursement at the prevailing rate for mileage established by the Internal Revenue Service for business travel and a fee not to exceed $5.00 for travel if required for the performance of a notarial act. Please see the Notary Division Home page for the current mileage rate: https://sos.maryland.gov/Notary/Pages/default.aspx.
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