When I first heard the word signing agent, I was participating in a real estate transaction for my husband’s business. We had just moved to Wisconsin and he and his brother were closing on an investment property in Ohio. The bank they used had no local no branches, so they sent a notary signing agent. I found myself fascinated by the process:
- How did our agent hear about this type of work?
- What were her hours like?
- What could a typical signing agent make?
- What were the first steps?
These are all questions that can be answered with a bit of research, but the most important piece that she mentioned was that I first needed to become a notary public. I got to work that day and began the steps to become a notary in Wisconsin.
Can I change my notary commission state?
I was surprised to learn that the process is a bit different in every state. And while I have enjoyed my time in Wisconsin, after 10 short months, life is taking my family back to Ohio, where my husband and I both grew up. That left me faced with an even bigger question: will my commission transfer between states?
The short answer is: NO.
If you are moving to another state, you must resign your commission and apply for a commission in your new state. While it sounds simple, for many, the process can feel a little overwhelming.
Below I will explain the process of becoming a notary in both Wisconsin and Ohio, as well as the steps I took to move my commission and notary business to a new state.
Getting commissioned in Wisconsin
If you are reading this, you may be commissioned in your state already. I want to discuss what I experienced in both states, starting with Wisconsin.
As with most questions in our modern life, I simply googled “Becoming a notary in Wisconsin”, and the first result was the National Notary Association website. One thing I love about the NNA is that the website automatically defaults to your state, so all of the info you see is state specific. This is helpful if you aren’t sure where to begin.
That said, the NNA offers both free and paid resources. If you want to make the process easier, it may be worth the investment to opt for one of their starter packages. However, if you feel confident on your own, you can take the steps necessary and then check your work with your state specific checklist.
Key points about a notary commission in Wisconsin:
- Notary commissions are 4 years long. Once you apply and are accepted, you are set for 4 years!
- You must order your stamp before you can submit your application. This means that you will not become a notary public in a day – and that’s okay! This also forces you to practice clear stamping, which is an important part of any notarial act.
- You must be bonded and insured. This means that you must purchase a surety bond and errors and omissions insurance, as mandated by the Wisconsin Secretary of State. The surety bond is a way of protecting clients should there be issues; the surety company that backs the bond has money readily available if you, the notary public, are not able to pay what is owed in the case of a detrimental error. Your eros and omissions (E&O) insurance is also in place to protect you in these cases. I like to think of it this way: my bond protects clients and my E&O insurance protects me.
- You must pass a short exam. Wisconsin provides a handbook of notarial rules and regulations, as well as a tutorial, so I found the exam to be quite simple.
- A notary must notarize your bond and administer the oath of office. Yes, to be a notary, you must find a notary first. It is a great way to take part in a notarization!
The process from start-to-finish took me 2 weeks. In total, my application, insurance, stamp, and journal cost roughly $100. Not too bad for getting started!
Becoming a notary signing agent in Wisconsin
One great thing about moving states is that my notary signing agent certification will transfer, so the process of becoming an NSA is more or less the same once you are commissioned.
You can read my post for getting started as a signing agent, but here is a quick recap:
- The industry standard is to get certified through the NNA. They have several packages, some that include training. It is crucial to do your research and figure out which package is right for you, whether it is the most basic background check and exam, or the add-ons. Signing agent certification is good for 1 year.
- There are many paid training options available, including Notary2Pro, Loan Signing System, and more. However, as long as you pass the NNA exam, you are not required to complete any additional training. Many experienced signing agents swear by these programs, but as always, it is important to do your research to determine what is best for you. I highly recommend getting additional training as an NSA. There is much to learn and the more confident you are in the signings you conduct, the more your business will grow.
- Advertising your services can be state specific, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, in Wisconsin, I signed up with several different notary directories (you can sign up with Notary Jane), as well as created a website and Facebook page for my business.
The NNA is an excellent resource for getting started as a signing agent if you have more questions. As I said, the certification is not state specific, so I can feel confident that the experience and work I have put in until this point will follow me to Ohio this summer.
What’s next? Getting commissioned as a notary in Ohio
I want to reiterate that your experience might be different when moving to a new state as a notary. That said, below are some key elements that stood out to me when moving from Wisconsin to Ohio and continuing my notary work.
- The background check process is different. As a teacher who frequently needs a background check for my other job, I thought this might look different between states. In Wisconsin, I obtained my background check through the NNA. In Ohio, however, the attorney general requires all background checks to be completed at what they call a Webcheck Center. These need to be completed and sent directly with your application.
- The education process is different. In Wisconsin, I was only required to pass the notary exam. In Ohio, there is a 3-hour course that I must take (and pay for). This course and testing can be taken online or in person. If I had no experience, I think having an in-person mandatory education option is very beneficial. Plus, I know this class will help me solidify my knowledge of some of the differences in notarial wording, process, etc.
- You do not need your stamp to apply. On the NNA’s checklist for becoming an Ohio notary public, getting your stamp is the last step. Since I already have a journal, this will be the only new supply I need.
- The commission lasts 5 years. One more thing to finish and then not worry about for a while! That said, there is another hour of mandatory education at each renewal, but the renewal fee is less than the initial application.
Not better or worse, just different
While becoming a notary requires some clerical work and knowledge, I found the process to be very simple so long as I followed the necessary steps required. And once I completed this in Wisconsin, I feel far less overwhelmed getting my new commission in Ohio.
I plan to take full advantage of the great educational materials to keep me updated on differences between the laws in each state. I know how to resign my commission in Wisconsin when I get ready to move. And, thankfully, my signing agent business will move with me!
My next steps after getting commissioned will be to update my website and information with signing services so that I can start receiving signings Ohio. I will also reach out to local title companies to let them know I would be happy to service their clients. Thankfully, I have done it all before!
Do you have information about moving across states or transferring your business along your notary journey? We’d love to hear! Leave a comment and let us know.
By Jennifer Craven