In every state including North Carolina, notaries public are appointed to serve the community as impartial witnesses to a document’s signing. A person can become a notary in North Carolina fairly easily, and when their term is over, they can reapply, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements.
The North Carolina Secretary of State appoints notaries; it receives applications for appointment and term renewal, administers the process for becoming a notary, and maintains a database of active notaries around the state.
Notary Public Qualifications in North Carolina
A notary public establishes the identities of those who sign official documents, their awareness of those documents, and their willingness to sign without intimidation. Some transactions require signers to take an oath that a document’s information is valid.
To gain and keep the trust of the public, notaries must be impartial and not act according to their personal interests. They cannot refuse to serve anyone in the community based on religion, race, political preference, nationality, sexual orientation or customer status.
A person applying to be a notary in North Carolina must meet certain requirements. They must:
- Be at least 18 years of age or legally emancipated.
- Live in North Carolina or have a regular place of business or work in the state.
- Live legally in the United States.
- Read, speak and write English.
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Pass a course approved by the secretary of state on how to be a notary within three months of applying, unless they are already a North Carolina State Bar licensed member.
- Buy and keep the most recent version of a manual describing what a notary does and what their authority is.
- Fill out their application containing no significant factual omissions or misstatements.
- Not have any felony convictions or a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude, unless they have received a pardon or a certificate stating the restoration of their citizenship.
Becoming a Notary in North Carolina
To be a notary public in North Carolina, individuals must receive a notary public commission from the secretary of state by:
- Meeting all of the eligibility requirements.
- Purchasing and keeping the latest edition of the North Carolina Notary Public Manual.
- Successfully completing a six-hour notary public course offered by community colleges around the state approved by the secretary of state.
- Passing a secretary of state-approved written exam with a score of 80 percent or higher. Licensed attorneys are exempt from this requirement.
- Applying to be a notary within three months after completing the course and having the application notarized. Both the course instructor and applicant must sign the application form.
- Mailing the notary application to the secretary of state’s office with a $50 fee.
- Taking the oath of office at their county register of deeds within 45 days of the date on the oath notification. The register of deeds charges $10 for administering a notary’s oath.
- Securing the Notary Commission Certificate from the register of deeds.
Another application and $50 filing fee must be resubmitted if 45 days passes before the oath is taken. Applicants are not appointed as notaries until they take the oath.
Renewing a North Carolina Notary Commission
Notaries may apply for reappointment no less than 10 weeks before their current commission’s expiration date. To qualify, they must pass a secretary of state-approved and administered exam with a score of 80 percent or greater.
To renew their notary commission, individuals will submit their reappointment application to the secretary of state’s office and include a $52 application fee. The secretary of state is not bound by previous eligibility determinations.
Failing to Submit Notary Renewal Application
If the notary fails to submit their application for reappointment before their commission expires, they:
- May apply for a recommission within a year after their term’s expiration.
- Must follow the same processes and procedures as they did for their initial application.
- Must fulfill the mandatory educational requirement of passing a secretary of state-approved and administered exam with a score of 80 percent or greater.
Applicants have three chances to pass the test within 30 days. Those who are licensed through the North Carolina Bar and those who have held a commission since July 10, 1991, and have never been disciplined by the secretary of state’s office are exempt from this requirement.
How Long Is a North Carolina Notary’s Term?
A North Carolina notary public commission term is five years and begins on the date specified in the commission. However, a notary’s commission may come to an end earlier under certain circumstances:
- Through death, resignation or revocation.
- They are no longer a North Carolina resident.
- They are no longer a citizen or legal United States resident.
- They lose their capability to read and write English.
- They no longer have a regular place of business or work in the state.
- If they are an attorney, they are no longer licensed to practice law the state.
- They have a felony conviction and their civil rights have not been restored, or they have been convicted of a lesser offense that is incompatible with a notary’s duties, or a conviction involving moral turpitude.
A person who is no longer a notary must turn in their notary seal. If they don’t, this could lead to criminal Class I felony charges. The penalty for a Class I felony is three to 12 months in prison.
- American Association of Notaries: How to Become a Notary in North Carolina
- Notary Council: Notary Public 101
- NC Secretary of State: Become a Notary
- NC Secretary of State: Application for Initial Appointment as a North Carolina Notary Public
- NC Secretary of State: Application for Reappointment as a North Carolina Notary Public
- NC Legislature: Section 10B-9 Length of Term and Jurisdiction
- NC Secretary of State: FAQs
- NOLO/Criminal Defense Lawyer: North Carolina Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.