Frequently Asked Questions - Notary

How do I find information about becoming a notary?
Visit the Secretary of State's website.

Who may apply for appointment as a notary public?
Any person who is

*At least 18 years of age,
*Of known good character, integrity and abilities, and
*Living or working in the State of Maryland

How do I apply to be a notary?
An application is submitted to the Secretary of State with a non-refundable $11.00 processing fee. It then goes to the State Senator of the applicant's senatorial district. If the Senator approves the application, it is returned to the Secretary of State, and appointment will be made upon approval of the Governor.

Applications submitted to the Secretary of State by out-or-state persons are transmitted to a State Senator chosen by the applicant. Usually, the Senator chosen is the one where the applicant works or the one whose jurisdiction is closest to the applicant's residence.

After appointment by the Governor, a commission (the written statement of the appointment) is prepared. The commission is sealed with the Great Seal of the State and is signed by the Governor and Secretary of State. The applicant is then notified to appear before the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the County, or Baltimore City, in which the applicant resides to take an oath of office. Out-of-state applicants appear before the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the County, or Baltimore City, in which the endorsing Senator has jurisdiction.

I was appointed a Notary and I live in Calvert County. Where do I go to take the Oath of Office? What hours?
The appointee must appear at the Clerk of Circuit Court's Office, 175 Main Street, Prince Frederick, MD 20678. Our public walk-in hours are 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday. The Appointee must pay a fee of $11.00 and take the oath of office. The appointee then receives the commission and is qualified to act as a notary public.

How long is a notary public commission valid?
A notary public commission is valid from the time the person qualified before the Clerk of the Circuit Court until four years from the date the commission was issued. The expiration date is shown on each commission.

How can a notary public commission be renewed? I am a notary and I did not receive a renewal application. ;What do I do?
Visit the Secretary of State's website. The notary public should submit the completed application to the Secretary of State with the required processing fee. Upon approval, the notary public will be issued a notice of renewal. It is the duty of the notary public to appear, pay the fees and qualify before the Clerk of the Circuit Court within 30 days after issuance of notice of renewal. Failure to qualify within 30 days after notice constitutes a revocation of the appointment and commission.

Who furnishes the seal of office?
Each notary public must furnish, at his or her own expense, a seal of office. It is a public seal, even though the notary public purchased it. The notary public should use great care to see that is is not lost, stolen, or misused. A notary can purchase a fair register or journal from most office supply stores. The seal must be either an embosser which makes a raised impression in the paper or a rubber stamp which makes an ink impression upon the paper. Both are in general use throughout the State. Either type must contain the following:

*The name of the notary public as it appears on the notary's commission,
*The words "Notary Public", and
*The county (or the City of Baltimore) for which the notary was appointed. The seal may also contain a symbol or device chosen by the notary public, but a symbol or device is not required and is not normally used.

For more information, please see the Secretary of State's website.

Can a Notary certify a birth certificate or other public document?
A notary public has no authority to certify a copy of a public record, a publicly recorded document, a birth certificate, a school record or diploma, a professional license, or any other public or private document or record which does not pertain to the notary public's official acts. The holder of the public record will provide certified copies. For example, a certified copy of a birth certificate can be obtained by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene or Bureau of Vital Statistics and a certified copy of a school record can be obtained by contacting the school or board of education holding the record.

I am a notary and I changed my name or address. What do I need to do?
Whenever the name of a notary is changed, the notary may continue to perform official acts under the name in which the notary was commissioned, until the expiration of the commission. However, it is preferable to use the form New Name, commissioned as Prior Name. The notary shall, within 30 days after a change of name or address notify the Secretary of State and the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the County, or Baltimore City, depending upon where the notary received the commission.

A notary who wishes to obtain a commission in a new name may do so by requesting a name change application from the Secretary of State, which is to be completed and returned, along with the old commission. The notary must appear before the Clerk to be sworn in and pay an administrative fee of $11.00. When a new commission is issued because of a name, the previous commission held in the old name is canceled.

May a married woman who is a notary public use her maiden name on her seal?
The Attorney General has given an opinion that a married woman may use her maiden or married name on her notary commission and seal. The name chosen must agree on the commission, on the seal, and as she signs her name on the certification. She may choose either name, but whichever she chooses, the use must be consistent. That is, her name as used as a notary public, should be the same one used for other purposes: business, professional, or personal. Based upon an earlier court case, the opinion stated that a married female may retain her given birth name by using it exclusively, consistently, and non-fraudulently.

How do I obtain information or advice regarding the certificate and the use of my notary seal?
The certificate of the notary public is a form of receipt which the notary completes to show that an acknowledgment has been taken or oath administered. The certificate of a notary public is the act of an officer of the State, and, therefore, carries great legal weight.

Because the certificate is so important, severe criminal penalties are imposed by law for the making of a false certificate. Therefore, a notary must possess a clear understanding of notarial duties, and ensure that they are performed accurately. For more information on the duties of a notary, please see the Secretary of State's website.

Where can I find a notary?
You can generally find notaries working for banks, real estate or attorney offices. Sometimes notaries will advertise in newspapers and/or have a sign outside their homes or places of employment.

I need to submit documents to another country and I have to have the signature of the notary who signed the document certified. Where do I go?
I need to get an apostille. Where do I go?

An apostille is a two part process for documents going to countries who are part of the Hague Treaty. A certification is a three part process for documents going to countries who are not part of the Hague Treaty. The first step in either process is to take the document to the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court where the notary was commissioned. The county where the notary was commissioned should be identified in the notary's seal. The cost is $1.00 per certification.

The second step is to take the document, with the Clerk's certification attached, to the Office of the Secretary of State who certifies the elected Clerk of Court. If a standard certification is needed the document must also be taken to the State Department. For more information on Apostilles and Certifications, go the Secretary of State's website.