Legal-Ease: How to become a notary public in Ohio

A lot of documents require signatures to be signed with a notary public, from deeds to car titles to powers of attorney.

Ohio law changed in September of 2019 for the process of becoming a notary public. Prior to 2019, notaries would go to their local county recorder and complete the process set out by the county recorder. At that time, each county had slightly different processes for becoming a notary, and Ohio lacked any substantive uniformity. The different notary application processes thus varied drastically across the state in difficulty and in the education on notary laws.

As a result, in an effort to make the process to become a notary public more uniform across the state and to ensure all notaries are properly educated on notary laws and responsibilities, Ohio enacted a new process effective in September of 2019.

First, if you desire to become a notary, you will need a BCI criminal records check. There is an exception to this, which is attorney applications are not required to submit a BCI criminal records check report. Thus, you will need to ensure you do not have any disqualifying offenses on your record when considering becoming a notary public. Some disqualifying offenses include sexually oriented offenses, offenses of violence, theft and/or fraud offenses or any other felony offenses that have a direct connection to the role of notary public.

Additionally, you will need to take and complete a three-hour notary education course. The notary education course must be approved by the state. Approved notary education courses are readily available across the state, some courses being in-person courses and others being strictly online courses. Once you complete the course, you will receive a course certificate that is needed for the notary application.

After the course completion, then you will need to pass an exam. Attorney applications are exempt from the exam requirement, while non-attorney applicants are required to take the multiple-choice exam. If an applicant does not receive a passing score on the exam on the first try, he or she has to wait 30 days before retaking the exam. Once you pass the exam, you will receive a course certificate that is needed for the notary application.

Next to become a notary public, you will need to make a user account on the notary portal, located on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

Once you have the user account, you then can complete the notary public application. As part of the application, you will need to submit a copy of your criminal records check, your course certificate and test certificate, along with an image of your signature.

Upon completion of your notary public application, you can submit the application to the state, along with a $15 submission fee. Then you will just need to await your approval.

When the Ohio Secretary of State approves your application to be a notary public, the office will email you your commission. Upon receipt of your commission, you are officially an approved notary and can order your notary stamp (if one is not included in your course).

Nichole Y. Shafer is an Ohio-licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LTD in Putnam County. She limits her practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.