Notary Background Check: What Shows Up (and How to Pass)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | September 14, 2022

Man in yellow shirt on the left holds up a big magnifying glass to a computer screen showing an online notary background check report, while a notary signing agent sits behind a desk on the right with a notarized document behind him.

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Becoming a notary can be a great way to earn extra cash as well as something that looks good on a resume, but it requires a notary background check, which can make some people feel nervous.

Fortunately, there’s no need to be worried. Since most states lay out the specifics of the background check (including any disqualifying offenses), anyone seeking a notary public licenses or signing agent certification can know exactly what will scuttle their application, and by simply running a background check on yourself first and seeing what shows up on a background check, can take steps to learn how to remove criminal record from background check reports.

By simply learning the basics of the process and being aware of a few key steps that individuals can take beforehand, passing a notary background check is fairly easy.

This guide explains everything you need to know.

How To Pass Step #1: Run A Background Check On Yourself (Notary Public Background Check)

Although a notary background check is slightly more intensive than a typical pre-employment background check (since the person becomes a member of the judicial branch/court), it is still far from the most intensive background check out there. Opposed to most pre-employment background checks that will include reference checks and professional license verification searches and past jobs, the notary background check will focus almost exclusively on the individual’s criminal history.

The exact checks that are performed as part of a notary background check will vary by state, however, there are also federal regulations that each state’s unique screening process must meet at a minimum.

In general, individuals who are hoping to become a notary will be subject to the following background checks, with the possibility of additional checks being performed based on the state regulations.

  • Identity Verification
  • Residence Verification
  • Federal criminal record database search
  • Residence county criminal record search
  • State motor vehicles record search
  • Office of Foreign Assets Control Search (Terrorist watchlist search)

The above list may seem intimidating, but most of these checks are fairly standard. Besides the checks that are mandated for all notary background checks it is also important to review those required for the state the application will be made in. Certain states may have additional requirements or steps to complete the background check.

Keep in mind that although somewhat common in many industries, there is no credit or financial check of any kind required to become a notary. The notary check focuses primarily on criminal history.

Types Of Incidents That Go On Your Criminal History RecordWill It Impact a Notary Background Check?
Does A Restraining Order Go On Your RecordSometimes–When accompanied by an arrest, yes.
How Long Does A Misdemeanor Stay On Your RecordYes. It stays on the record from 1-7 years, depending on state law.
Does A Dismissed Case Stay On Your RecordSometimes. Every state has different laws regarding dismissed charges.
How Long Does A Felony Stay On Your RecordYes, a felony stays on your record. But some states offer expungement for some crimes.
Does A Harassment Order Go On Your RecordSometimes, depending on the situation and court case process.
Does A 72 Hour Hold Go On Your RecordSometimes. When accompanied by an arrest, it will.
Do Warnings Go On Your RecordTypically, no, but this depends on the type of warning.
Does Getting Fired Go On Your RecordNo, being fired does not go on the record, but employers may disclose it.
Does Going To A Mental Hospital Stay On Your RecordThis goes on the health record, but not the criminal one unless accompanied by an arrest.
Does A Wellness Check Go On Your RecordSometimes, it depends on the type of check and any incidents related to it.
Does Being Detained Go On Your RecordSometimes, when related to a criminal charge.
Does A Citation Go On Your RecordA citation can appear on the driving record, depending on severity.
Do Parking Tickets Go On Your RecordNo, non-moving violations don’t show up unless they lead to criminal action.
Does Contempt Of Court Go On Your RecordSometimes, depending on whether the charge is civil or criminal.
Does Job Abandonment Go On Your RecordSometimes, but usually only an employer can disclose it.
Does An Eviction Go On Your RecordYes, but only if the case proceeds through court.

Once all the background check requirements have been reviewed the best thing to do is to run a background check on yourself. Even for individuals who believe they have nothing on their criminal history at all, it’s still important to check as mistakes are still somewhat common.

Performing a criminal history check on yourself is extremely easy these days and is by far the best way to fix any potential problems that could arise and cause an individual to fail a background check. The easiest way to perform a criminal history check on yourself is using either the DIY method, which involves manually checking various databases for criminal records. Another great option is to hire a background check service to run a criminal history check for you.

Many background check companies will give individuals the option of what databases that they want checked, so this can be a great way to perform the check in the exact same way as the official check will eventually be performed.

For the DIY method, individuals should perform a county criminal history check through the local county court clerk. The county court clerk will have access to all criminal history information in the county, simply contact the local county clerk to learn the best way to request criminal history information.

Related Reading: How to do a background check on yourself: All 50 states

Individuals should do the same through their local DMV in order to obtain a driving record, this is especially important as many individuals may not remember every traffic ticket or the details of the ticket. Remember, there are different penalties assigned during the background check based on how far past the speed limit the individual was driving. A speeding ticket for going 10 over the speed limit carries a lesser penalty than going 30 mph over the speed limit, so knowing the exact details is essential.

Finally, individuals can go through various agencies such as the FBI identity history summary check1 to obtain a federal criminal history check.

Regardless of the method chosen, running a background check on yourself beforehand is the easiest thing to do to ensure that the background check will be passed. If there are any mistakes on the background check they can be corrected early in order to prevent lengthy delays while individuals fix their background check.

How To Pass Step #2: Background Check For Notary Disqualifiers (What Disqualifies You From Being A Notary)

Another important step individuals can take as they prepare for a notary background check is to learn the list of disqualifying offenses and how the pass/fail system works for the background check. A typical background check will generally have a list of disqualifying offenses. If any of these offenses are found during the criminal history check, such as a conviction for a violent felony, the individual is automatically disqualified from consideration. The notary background check works in a similar way, but rather than just having a list of disqualifying offenses, there is also a point system.

Basically, anything that is found during the background check is assigned a point value, based on the severity of the offense. This includes not just the federal criminal history and county criminal history check but also the driving check. All the information found across all these databases is added up at the end to decide whether the individual passed or failed the background check.

The number that individuals want to avoid is 25. Individuals with 25 or more points after their background check will be disqualified from consideration. This is one of the reasons that performing a background check on yourself is so important as even things like speeding tickets will contribute to this final score.


The exact specifications of the background check are enforced by the Signing Professionals Workgroup. The SPW have developed a helpful document2 outlying all of the offenses that carry a point value on their website.

As mentioned, virtually anything that shows up on a background check will carry a penalty of at least a few points. There are also numerous crimes whose point value carry the maximum penalty of 25, meaning having certain crimes on your record will be an automatic disqualification, even if there is nothing else on the record. These are mostly reserved for more serious crimes such as arson, fraud, crimes against children, and a number of crimes relating to counterfeiting and lying under oath.

As with any job, the notary background check is unique to the circumstances of the position, so any crimes that involve some kind of dishonesty are taken very seriously.

State Laws For Background Check For Notary Signing Agent (Notary Signing Agent Background Check)

As mentioned there are various state laws that can slightly alter the exact details of a notary background check.

Be sure to check the details of a notary background check in your state, as well as any background check laws in your state that may be applicable.

StateRequirements and RegulationsNotary Application Form
Alabama Notary Background CheckAlabama Secretary of State: Notaries PublicNotary Application Form
Alaska Notary Background CheckAlaska Foreign Authentications and ApostillesNotary Application Form 
Arizona Notary Background CheckArizona Notary PublicNotary Application Form 
Arkansas Notary Background CheckArkansas Secretary of StateNotary Application Form
California Notary Background CheckCalifornia Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Colorado Notary Background CheckColorado Secretary of State Notary Application Form 
Connecticut Notary Background CheckConnecticut Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Delaware Notary Background CheckDelaware Notary PublicNotary Application Form 
Florida Notary Background CheckFlorida State GovernmentNotary Application Form 
Georgia Notary Background CheckGeorgia Clerks AuthorityNotary Application Form 
Hawaii Notary Background CheckHawaii Notary Public Notary Application Form 
Idaho Notary Background CheckIdaho Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Illinois Notary Background CheckIllinois Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Iowa Notary Background CheckIowa Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Indiana Notary Background CheckIndiana Notary PublicNotary Application Form 
Kansas Notary Background CheckKansas Notary PublicNotary Application Form 
Kentucky Notary Background CheckKentucky Notary PublicNotary Application Form 
Louisiana Notary Background CheckLouisiana Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Maine Notary Background CheckMaine Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Massachusetts Notary Background CheckMassachusetts Notary Public Notary Application Form 
Maryland Notary Background CheckMaryland Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Michigan Notary Background CheckMichigan Secretary of State Notary Application Form 
Minnesota Notary Background CheckMinnesota Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Mississippi Notary Background CheckMississippi Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Missouri Notary Background CheckMissouri Notary & CommissionNotary Application Form 
Montana Notary Background CheckMontana Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Nebraska Notary Background CheckNebraska Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Nevada Notary Background CheckNevada Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
New Hampshire Notary Background CheckNew Hampshire Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
New Jersey Notary Background CheckNew Jersey TreasuryNotary Application Form 
New Mexico Notary Background CheckNew Mexico Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
New York Notary Background CheckNew York Department of StateNotary Application Form 
North Carolina Notary Background CheckNorth Carolina Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
North Dakota Notary Background CheckNorth Dakota Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Ohio Notary Background CheckOhio Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Oklahoma Notary Background CheckOklahoma NotaryNotary Application Form 
Oregon Notary Background CheckOregon Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Pennsylvania Notary Background CheckPennsylvania Department of StateNotary Application Form 
Rhode Island Notary Background CheckRhode Island Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
South Carolina Notary Background CheckSouth Carolina Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
South Dakota Notary Background CheckSouth Dakota Department of StateNotary Application Form 
Tennessee Notary Background CheckTennessee Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Texas Notary Background CheckTexas Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Utah Notary Background CheckUtah Office of Lt. GovernorNotary Application Form 
Vermont Notary Background CheckVermont Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Virginia Notary Background CheckVirginia Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Washington Notary Background CheckWashington State DepartmentNotary Application Form 
West Virginia Notary Background CheckWest Virginia Secretary of StateNotary Application Form 
Wisconsin Notary Background CheckWisconsin Department of Financial InstitutionsNotary Application Form 
Wyoming Notary Background CheckWyoming Secretary of StateNotary Application Form

How Far Back Does A Notary Background Check Go

Notary background checks can go back indefinitely in many states, however, it is rare that they will go back more than 10 years. Due to the fact that the background check is performed at the state level, the length of the check will be dictated by state laws.

This means that in states that follow the seven-year rule, the notary background check will only go back 7 years instead of the standard 10.

How Often Does A Notary Signing Agent Need A Background Check (Notary Renewal Background Check)

Individuals will need to renew their notary license and thus undergo a notary background check every 12 months. Given that many of the offenses that can cause an individual to be disqualified involve things like speeding tickets, it is important to at least be aware of your criminal record throughout the year to ensure that the too many points are not accumulated which would cause individuals not be able to renew their notary license.

Of course, if the initial background check was passed and there are no new offenses on your record, the renewal background check should be nothing to worry about.

Related Reading: How far back does a criminal background check go?

What’s The National Notary Association Background Check?

The national notary association background check is the standard background check that all individuals who wish to become notaries must pass. The check, like all background checks, is intended to protect the integrity of the positions and ensure that no one who has a history of fraudulent activity can become a notary and commit even more serious fraud.

How Long Is NNA Background Check Good For?

A NNA background check has a particularly short renewal period compared to many jobs. While jobs like child care only require employees to undergo a full background check every 5 years, notaries will be required to undergo the same background check every 12 months. This is to ensure that the individual has not committed any crimes in the last year that would cause the NNA to question their integrity and make them appear to be at a risk of fraudulent or other illegal activity involving their notary privileges.

Becoming a notary can be a great help to the community, while making some extra cash to supplement a day job. Although the notary background check may be more intensive than many individuals expected, taking a few basic steps to know what shows up and what to expect can make it extremely easy to pass.

Frequently Asked Questions About Notary Background Check Reports

Can A Felon Be A Notary (Can Someone With a Felony get a Notary License)?

Yes, a felon can be a notary in two main circumstances. The first is if the felony does not carry enough points for the individual to fail the background check. Although many felonies carry a maximum penalty of 25 points, causing the individual to be disqualified automatically, certain felonies carry a lesser penalty.

Another way to pass a notary background check as a felon is if the felony was committed more than 10 years, or more than 7 years ago in certain states. Various state laws prevent criminal convictions from showing up if the crime  was committed more than 7-10 years ago, if this is the case then the felony will not contribute to the background check score at all.

If You Have a Felony on the Record, Can You Be a Notary?

Yes, certain felonies will not cause individuals to be disqualified immediately, also there is the possibility of a felony conviction not appearing on a background check if it is older than 10 years, or older than 7 years in certain states.

Do They Do A Background Check To Become A Notary Public?

Yes, there is an extensive criminal background check that is required to become a notary. The check involves identity and residence verification as well as a DMV check, county criminal history check, and national criminal history check.

Will A BCI Background Check Work For A Notary License?

Sometimes, each state has different requirements and methods for individuals getting their notary background check. Be sure to follows the specific background check requirements in your state as individuals can’t simply turn in a background check from a different agency then what is requested.

Do They Do A Background Check To Become A Notary?

Yes, there is an extensive criminal background check to become a notary. The criminal history check involves a name-based check of the individual’s criminal history and the county and national levels, as well as a driving record check.


References

1FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks. Services. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks>

2Signing Professionals Workgroup. (2022). 10-Year Search of Criminal Records. Notary Signing Agent Background Screening Standards. Retrieved July 07, 2022, from <https://spswg.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/spw-bgs-standards-06-22.pdf>

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