How to Become a Notary in Washington DC

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

How to Become a Notary in Washington DC

Looking to make a difference in your community? Let us guide you on a rewarding journey toward a unique profession.

In this comprehensive guide on how to become a notary in Washington DC, we lay out the roadmap to achieving this goal. With easy-to-follow, actionable steps, we’ll help you navigate this intriguing process, turning the complex into simple.

Whether you’re looking to serve your community or generate additional income, this article will offer everything you need to know to get started.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? Have a look at the National Notary Association’s state-approved packages, which come with E&O insurance, notary supplies, and a surety bond.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($79+)

Becoming a Notary in Washington DC

In order to become a notary in Washington DC, you will need to complete a few simple steps.

Step 1: Meet the Eligibility Requirements

In the District of Columbia, you must meet certain requirements in order to become a notary. In particular, applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the U.S.
  • Be a resident of or have the District as their primary place of employment 
  • Not be disqualified under section 23 of Chapter 12A of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts
  • Satisfy any other rules issued by the Mayor

Once you’ve made sure you meet all these requirements, you’ll be ready to continue on to the next step.

Step 2: Select the Notary Commission You’re Applying For

Washington DC offers seven distinct types of notary commissions for you to choose from, which have been outlined below:

  1. Residential — For Washington DC residents wishing to be notaries for residential purposes only (e.g., serving the community). Applicants must submit a letter of request describing why they want the commission; their reasons cannot be work-related.
  2. Business — For individuals whose primary place of employment/business is in the District; applicants do not need to be Washington DC residents. The applicant’s supervisor must submit a letter of request including a justification for the notary commission that indicates how it will improve business.
  3. DC Government — For individuals applying on behalf of a Washington DC agency; this commission only allows holders to offer notary services of the District of Columbia. The applicant’s supervisor must submit a letter of request stating why the individual needs to be able to perform notarial services.
  4. Federal Government — For individuals applying on behalf of a government agency; must have a Washington DC address and phone number. Holders can only perform notary acts for the federal government. The letter of request submitted by the applicant’s supervisor must explain why notarial services are needed.
  5. Dual – Business — For individuals that want to be commissioned as both business and residential notaries; permits holders to perform notarial acts on their own behalf and the behalf of a business.
  6. Dual – Gov/DC — For individuals that want to be commissioned as both residential and government notaries; permits holders to perform notarial acts on their own behalf and the behalf of the District government. Letters from you and your supervisor must be submitted with an application.
  7. Dual – Gov/Federal — For individuals that want to be commissioned as both residential and federal government notaries; permits holders to perform notarial acts on their own behalf and the behalf of the federal government.

Note: To read more about these different types of commissions, make sure to check out Washington DC’s Notary Public Handbook.

Step 3: Complete the Notary Application

You can find the notary public application on the Office of the Secretary website. Make sure to read through all of the instructions here as failing to follow them may result in your application being returned.

The Office of the Secretary has stopped accepting the PDF version so you MUST use the form they provide on their website in order to complete your notary application.

Applications submitted in all CAPITALS in any field will be denied and returned for correction. You may only capitalize the first letter of each word in each field. Example: Mark Smith, 500 Anywhere Road, NW.

As part of this application, you’re required to select a commission type from those explored above.

Note: Your application cannot be saved so make sure to have all the required information on hand before starting.

Step 4: Upload your Letter of Request

Whether you’re applying for a new notary commission or to renew an existing one, you’ll have to include a letter of request.

There are several requirements for an acceptable letter of request. Namely, it must:

  • Be on business, personal, or government letterhead
  • Be written by your employer (or explained that you’re writing your own if you’re self-employed)
  • Include a physical District address (that matches the one on the application)
  • Include a District phone number (for business or government)
  • Have an original or approved electronic signature

The letter of request is NOT a character reference; it is a statement of why you want to offer notarial services to your community (for residential commissions) or why your services are needed to perform notarial acts (for business commissions).

Note: When uploading your letter of request, make sure to follow the instructions at the top of the application form, which can be found here.

Step 5: Pay the Filing Fee

Paying the $75 non-refundable filing fee alongside your letter of request will complete the submission of your application to the Office of the Secretary.

Note: If you’re an employee of the federal or District government, you are exempt from the requirement to pay this notary application fee unless you’re applying for a dual commission (see above).

Step 6: Complete an Orientation Session

Once you’ve completed the application for a new notary commission in Washington DC, you’re required to attend an orientation session that covers the relevant rules, regulations, and other technicalities of the District.

The orientation is scheduled after an application is approved, so keep an eye out for communication from the ONCA, who will shortly notify you of the date and time of your orientation.

You will be automatically informed of two classes, however, if you want to continue to be informed of future classes, you need to let the ONCA know.

Note: Renewal applicants whose commission expired more than 12 months before they reapplied are required to attend orientation as they are considered fresh applicants.

Step 7: Protect Yourself with Errors and Omissions Insurance

While not required by law, it’s a good idea to consider protecting yourself with Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance before you begin operating as a notary.

This type of insurance provides coverage for any legal fees arising from potential mistakes or omissions that you might make as you perform notarial acts. It’s an extra layer of protection that can give you peace of mind while operating for a relatively low opportunity cost.

Recommended Course

We recommend the National Notary Association’s state-approved packages, which come with E&O insurance, a surety bond, and the required notary tools.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($79+)

Step 8: Submit a Surety Bond

All District of Columbia notaries public must obtain a $2000 surety bond for their five-year term; this protects the public from the potential negligence of a notary.

There are a number of requirements you must follow to ensure you submit your notary bond correctly. In particular, you must:

  • Only use the bond form supplied by the ONCA office in the Appointment Notice
  • Not alter this bond form
  • Let the surety bond company fill out the form
  • Submit a receipt of the bond payment (with your name and the amount/date it was paid)

After filling out this form, the surety bond company will print it out and sign it before mailing it to you. Make sure to check for the company’s original signature and seal — both of these must be on the form.

Note: You must open the bond form on a computer in Microsoft Word. This ensures you’re able to see the correct beginning and end dates of your commission.

Step 9: Obtain Notary Supplies

Finally, you’ll need to obtain your notary supplies.

This includes your notary seal or stamp, as well as your notary journal (used to maintain a record of all notarial acts performed).

Remember that, as a notary, you will serve a vital role in your community. This responsibility requires diligence, precision, and a high ethical standard.

Take your time, follow the steps, and prepare to provide a valuable service.

Step 10: Take Your Oath of Commission

The final step is to bring your original signed bond form, notary supplies, and receipt to the ONCA office to take your oath of office.

Only once you’ve taken this oath will you be able to start performing notarial acts.

Note: You must take your oath within 60 days of the beginning date of the commission on your Appointment Notice or it will be canceled. If this happens, you’ll have to re-complete the entire process.

Step 11: Purchase a Course (Optional)

Even though this last step is not a legal requirement, you should note that several Washington D.C. notary applicants choose to invest in a notary course. This is because it can offer several benefits, such as:

  • Understanding the Law: Notary laws can be complex and vary from state to state. A course can help ensure that notaries fully understand Washington D.C. notary laws and how to apply them correctly
  • Professional Development: A course can enhance professional skills, making a notary more effective and competent in their role
  • Reducing Liability: By better understanding the rules and best practices, notaries can reduce the risk of making errors that could result in legal action
  • Increased Confidence: A notary course can boost a notary’s confidence by giving them a solid foundation of knowledge and expertise to draw from
  • Staying Updated: Laws and procedures change over time. A course can help notaries stay current with any changes in notary regulations and practices

So, while it’s not mandatory in Washington D.C., many aspiring notaries find value in such courses. It’s a personal decision based on individual comfort and professional goals.

Recommended: We recommend the National Notary Association’s state-approved packages, which come with E&O insurance, a surety bond, and the required notary tools.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($79+)

How to Become a Notary in Washington DC FAQ

What does it take to become a notary in DC?

There are a number of requirements to become a notary in Washington D.C. You must be at least 18 years old, be a U.S. citizen or have legal residence, and either live or have a place of employment or practice in D.C. You’ll need to complete a District of Columbia notary public application, pay a fee, and pass a background check. For a more detailed look into this topic, see our article on How to Become a Notary in Washington DC.

Do you have to live in DC to be a DC notary?

Washington DC residency is a requirement for some notary commission types such as residential and federal government commissions, but not for others such as business and DC government commissions. Residency is one of several qualifying factors, such as whether you have a place of employment or practice within Washington D.C., that will be considered in your application to become a DC notary.

How long does a DC commission last?

In Washington D.C. notary commissions last for a period of five years. After this time, you will need to apply for a renewal of your notary commission if you wish to continue as a notary. If your notary commission has expired for more than 12 months, you will be treated as a fresh applicant and thus have to submit a new application instead of a renewal.

Do I need to sit an exam to become a notary in DC?

You are not required to sit a notary public exam in Washington D.C. in order to become commissioned. However, you will need to be familiar with the DC notarial laws and regulations included in the Notary Public Handbook. Your mandatory orientation will touch on everything you need to know in order to work as a notary in DC.

How long does it take to become commissioned as a notary in DC?

The timeframe to become a commissioned notary in D.C. can vary depending on how long it takes to get together the necessary documents and submit your application. After this point, it typically takes the Office of Notary Commissions and Authentications (ONCA) about 45 days to process your application. For more information on this process, see our article on How to Become a Notary.

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Become a Notary page.