This information is provided as a public service by the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority. In 1997, the GSCCCA and the Office of the Secretary of State worked together for a smooth transition of the maintenance of the Georgia Notary Public Registration System. This information is intended to be for information purposes only and not used in lieu of legal advice. Questions regarding application laws to a particular situation should be addressed to private counsel.
The Notary Public Division issues two types of domestic certificates of authentication and one intentional certificate of authentication called an Apostille. All certifications are issued under the seal of the State of Georgia.
Domestic certifications issued by this Division attest to the authority, name, term of office and signature of the Notary Public. The international certification issued by this Division is available pursuant to provisions of the “Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents”. The Apostille is affixed to the document which is witnessed or certified by a Notary Public or a State or a County officer, and which required authentication for use in a country that is a member of the Hague Convention. Information regarding countries that are members of the Hague Convention may be obtained from the U.S. Department of State’s Authentication Office at 202-647-5002.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING NOTARIES PUBLIC
What is a notary?
An official appointed by the State to serve the public as an impartial witness, with duties prescribed by law.
What does notarization mean?
Certification by an impartial witness that a signer has been screened and/or that an oath has been administered.
What is the procedure in notarizing a document?
a. Request identification
b. Administer oath, if necessary.
c. Complete and enter the exact date on a notarial certificate
d. Sign your name, exactly as it appears on your seal
e. Write or type your commission expiration date
f. Place seal on the document
Must I sign my name exactly as it appears on the certificate?
Yes. You must use the same name as it appears on the certificate and seal, including middle initial if it applies.
Where do I place by notary seal on a document?
The seal should be affixed on the document where it can be easily read, not over your signature or printed matter if possible.
What three things should I screen a signer for?
What forms of identification should I request?
The best form of identification to use is one that includes a photograph, signature and ideally a physical description. A valid driver’s license is a good source of identification. Georgia statute requires persons appearing before a notary to produce identification.
What are the qualifications to become a Notary in Georgia?
1. Be at least 18 years old;
2. Be a United States citizen or be a legal resident of the United States;
3. Be a legal resident of the county from which such individual is appointed;
4. Have, and provide at the time of the application, the applicant’s operating telephone number; and
5. Be able to read and write the English language.
How do I become a Notary?
Any individual desiring to become a Notary Public should request an application form, and submit the application, to the Clerk of Superior Court in the county of his or her residence. Visit www.gsccca.org/Projects/npapp.asp to see if your county accepts online applications.
Are Georgia Notaries required to be bonded?
No bond is required of Georgia Notaries.
What is the procedure for changing a name, address and/or phone number during a term of office?
A Notary who changes his or her name, address and/or phone number shall notify the appointing Clerk in writing within thirty days of the change and provide the old and new name, old and new address, old and new phone number and new signature. A copy of the letter should be sent to GSCCCA, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30345.
Can I transfer my commission to another county if my name and address changes during my term of office?
Your commission continues in the county of appointment until it expires. The Notary is required to notify the Clerk of Superior Court in the old county of the change. Application for re-certification at the expiration of the term will be made to the new Clerk.
May I notarize my own signature or the signature of relatives?
You may not notarize your own signature. Although the statutes do not forbid notarizing the signature of relatives, it is not a good idea. If the notarized document is ever challenged in court, it might be determined that you were not acting as an impartial witness when the document was notarized.
What are the 3 types of discrepancy that commonly cause Clerks to reject notarized documents?
a. Missing or illegible seal impression
b. Missing or illegible signature
c. Improper notarial certificate
What should I do if asked to notarize a document written in a foreign language?
If the notary feels confident that he or she can identify blank spaces in the foreign language document just as he or she would in English, the notary should proceed with the notarization. The notary is not going to read the document even if it is in English. It is not the responsibility of the notary to ensure that the document is correct. That is the responsibility of the signer. The notary must be able to communicate verbally with the signer, however.
Is it proper to notarize a blank document?
No, This lends itself to potential fraud.
Does a Notary have to use a seal when notarizing documents?
A complete Notarial Act requires a Notary’s signature and seal.
Is a document valid if the Notary fails to include the expiration date of his or her term of office?
A document is generally valid if the expiration date is mistakenly left out. The wise Notary will always include the expiration date. If no stamp is handy, the expiration date may be handwritten.
May a Notary refuse to witness a document?
A Notary may, and should, refuse to witness a signature whenever any question exists as to the identity of the signer, the sanity of the signer, or the voluntariness of the signature. A Notary should confirm the identity of the signer base don personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence.
Can I sign as a witness in addition to acting as a Notary on a document?
A Notary is disqualified from performing a Notarial Act when he or she is also a party to the document for which notarization is required.
If a Notary resides in one county, can he or she notarize a document in another county?
Notarial Acts may be exercised in any county in the State.
May an out-of-State resident become a Notary Public in Georgia?
A resident of a State that borders Georgia, but who works or carries on a business in this State, may serve as a Notary Public and should apply to the Clerk of Superior Court of the county in which he or she works.
What is the term of office for a Notary and how is it renewed?
A Notary holds office for four years. Renewal of a commission is made by mail or in person at the discretion of the appointing Clerk. A notary should contact his or her Clerk of Superior Court in their current county of residence for specific procedures.
Who do I contact to obtain a certificate of authentication?
The Notary Division of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority.
Who issues Apostilles?
The Notary Division of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority is the authorized agency in the State of Georgia, as of February 1, 1998, to issue Apostilles.
For further information, contact:
GSCCCA/Notary Division, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30345 404-327-6023, or 404-327-9058, and (fax) 404-327-7887.