Illinois Frequently Asked Questions

How do I renew my notary appointment?

There is no automatic reappointment in Illinois. You will be notified by the Secretary of State approximately 60 days prior to the date your appointment expires. A preprinted application and bond form will be enclosed with the notification if you wish to apply for appointment for another term.

I have mailed a notary application and bond to the Secretary of State. When may I begin notarizing documents?

An appointed notary public may begin notarizing documents when his or her commission has been recorded with the county clerk and he or she has obtained an official notary public seal.

Should I accept a notary certificate from the county clerk that contains errors?

No, return the certificate to the county clerk detailing the error and request a corrected certificate.

How do I report a change in my home or work address or my name while I am serving as a notary public?

If you move or change employers and your new residence or place of employment is within the boundaries of the county from which you were appointed, you merely report the change of address to the Secretary of State. However, if you move out of the county, or if you are a non-resident notary who changes employment to another county, you must resign your commission. Resignations should be submitted to the Secretary of State. You can then apply for a new appointment.

When does a notary's commission officially expire?

A notary public receives a four-year appointment. A notary's commission expires at midnight of the expiration date of the appointment.

If my notary appointment has expired and I have applied for a new appointment, may I continue to notarize documents?

No. There is no grace period for a notary public once his or her appointment has expired. You may not perform notarial acts until you have recorded your new appointment with the county clerk and have obtained a new seal containing the date that your new term of office expires.

I would like to return to my maiden name. What does this involve?

A person who changes his or her name must resign his or her commission and apply for a new appointment.

What information is required when requesting that a commission be cancelled?

A written request should contain 1) the name under which the commission was issued; 2) the commission number; 3) reason for the cancellation and any supporting documents; 4) home address and telephone number; 5) signature of the notary requesting cancellation; and 6) the date the request was made.

Where do I submit my resignation as a notary?

Resignations should be submitted to: Secretary of State, Index Department, 111 E. Monroe St., Springfield, IL 62756.

May I notarize my own signature and/or the signatures of my spouse, children and other relatives?

A notary public may not notarize his or her own signature and may not notarize any document in which the notary's name appears as a party to the transaction. A notary may notarize the signature of his or her spouse, children and other relatives.

May I notarize documents that originate out of state?

Yes, as long as you perform the notarial act in Illinois and the notarial certificate indicates "State of Illinois, County of _______________________" to identify the jurisdiction in which the notarial act took place.

May I notarize documents only in my own county?

An Illinois notary public has the authority to act throughout the state if he or she is residing in the county from which he or she was appointed. The county in which the notarial act takes place should be inserted in the notarial certificate.

May I notarize documents when I am physically outside the State of Illinois?

No. An Illinois notary public has the authority to perform notarial acts only while in the State of Illinois.

Should I charge a fee for my services as a notary public?

The law does not require that you charge a fee. However, the maximum fee allowed is $1.

May I notarize documents that I will be signing as an officer on behalf of a corporation?

No. You may never notarize your own signature, whether you are signing for yourself or for a corporation.

How does a notary identify a signer?

A notary has satisfactory evidence if the person (1) is personally known to the notary; (2) is identified by a credible witness personally known to the notary; or (3) is identified on the basis of identification documents. Proper identification should include a photograph and a signature on a reliable identification card, such as a driver's license.

Must the person sign the document in my presence?

If the document requires an oath (for example, the certificate reads "signed and sworn/affirmed before me. . . ."), then an oath or affirmation must be administered to the person, and the person must sign the document in your presence. If the document requires acknowledgment, it is sufficient for the person to appear before you and acknowledge execution of the document. Never notarize an unsigned document. You may not take an acknowledgment because someone else assures you that the signature is genuine. You may not take an acknowledgment even when you recognize the signer's signature unless that person appears before you.

What should I do when a person for whom I have performed a notarial act requests proof that I am a notary?

Occasionally, a "Certificate of Authority" is required to be attached to a document that has been notarized, particularly when that document is being sent out of state. This certificate is proof that the notary was a commissioned notary on the date that the document was notarized. A "Certificate of Authority" may be obtained from the county clerk of the county in which your appointment is recorded or from the Secretary of State's office. It is not your responsibility, however, to obtain the certificate for the person. That person should contact the county clerk or the Secretary of State for information.

May notaries use rubber stamp signatures?

No. Notaries may not use facsimile signature stamps in signing his or her official certificates. A signature must be written in ink as commissioned. In addition, a facsimile signature may not be notarized.

Should I keep a log book of any actions as a notary?

There is no requirement in Illinois that a notary public keep a log book or journal. However, a notary may keep a journal for his or her own record keeping.

What are the most common errors or omissions made by notaries?

(1) Failing to properly identify a person; (2) failing to administer an oath or affirmation (if required); and (3) failing to affix the notary seal.

Can a notary give legal advice or prepare legal documents?

No. A notary does not have this authority, unless he or she is also an attorney.

Can a notary give advice on immigration or fill out immigration forms?

No. According to federal law, no person, unless an attorney, shall fill out legalization forms or applications related to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 unless he or she has been authorized to do so by the Immigration and Naturalization Service or the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Is a notary responsible for the truth or accuracy of a document?

No. The main purpose of notarization is to compel truthfulness by the signer. Notaries have no authority to and are not required to verify the truth or accuracy of any document.

What should be done with the notary stamp if a commission terminates through revocation, resignation or death?

The notary, or the notary's heirs, should destroy or deface the seal so that it may not be misused.

May a blank document be notarized?

Never notarize a blank or incomplete document. If a signer indicates that certain spaces in a document are to be left blank because they don't apply, suggest that he or she line through the spaces or write "Not Applicable." This protects the signer from later unauthorized insertions, and it may prevent the notary from having to appear as a witness in a lawsuit.

Is notarization required by law?

In many cases, yes. Some documents must be acknowledged before a notary, and other documents must be signed under oath to be effective. It is not a notary's duty to prepare the document, only to perform the notarial act and complete the notarial certificate.

I am a notary working in Illinois; however, we just moved across the state line into another state. May I continue to notarize when I am working at my job, which is in the State of Illinois?

No. Because you have moved out of state, you must resign your in-state notary commission.

How do I obtain an application to be commissioned as a nonresident notary?

You must contact the Index Department at 217-782-7017 to request a non-resident applicant packet.

How do I report a change in my employer's address?

If the change is within the county in which you are commissioned you must send a change of address to the Index Department in writing. However, if the new address is in a different county, you must resign your commission and re-apply.

Can my employer keep my seal and certificate if I leave the company?

No. The seal and certificate are considered the property of the notary public. Also, if you lose possession of your seal, it is recommended that you resign your commission.

What should I do if my notary seal is stolen?

Report the theft to the police. If for any reason you lose possession of your seal, it is recommended that you resign your commission.

Can information about any notary appointment be given to other people?

Yes. Notary public applications and appointments are public records and available to any interested person for examination or copying.

What could happen to someone who acts as a notary without a commission?

Performing unauthorized notarizations is a misdemeanor. The person could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to six months.

Can notarizations be performed for minors?

Yes, but the minor must be able to provide proof of identification, and a parent or legal guardian should be present.

My felony conviction was 20 years ago; can I apply for a notary public appointment?

No. Individuals who have been convicted of a felony are not eligible to be commissioned as an Illinois Notary Public under the provisions set forth in the Notary Public Act.