The certification process to become a notary varies from state to state, but generally, an applicant must be 18 years old with a clean record and be able to pay for the commission, seal and journal necessary to notarize documents. Many states also require a financial bond to be acquired.
Since a notary public serves an important legal role, most states require an extensive background check before becoming a notary. Any felony conviction usually disqualifies an applicant, as do convictions for some lesser crimes, or a previous revocation of notary status. Some states also require an examination, and a few mandate that applicants must go through an educational course before becoming a notary.
Many states also require the placement of a security bond to cover the notary's actions. This is a financial guarantee that can be used to pay anyone who suffers a financial loss as the result of a notary's actions. For instance, if a notary falsely certifies a document that is used to steal property from a citizen, the bond may be used to reimburse for the loss. The bond does not protect the notary, however, and in many states notaries have no liability limit for their actions. Notaries usually carry errors and omissions insurance to protect themselves from potential certification mistakes.