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Frequently asked questions

After I apply to become a notary public, when will I get my seal?
The state does not provide seals or stamps. You will find vendors of seals listed in the yellow pages under “seals.” Stationery and business supply houses may also be able to order one for you.

What is the difference between a seal and a stamp?
A seal is a metal device that impresses the paper with your name, “Notary Public,” and “Rhode Island.” A stamp may have additional information such as your expiration date, “signed before me” or other useful phrases.

What is the proper way to notarize a document?
To properly notarize a document you must fill in all spaces in a preprinted acknowledgement; sign your name as you did on your application; and print your name, the words “ Notary Public,” and your expiration date. If the document has no preprinted acknowledgement, one must be provided. Sample forms are provided in the Notary Standards of Conduct giving the date and location of the signing and the name of the person whose signature you are notarizing. Sign your name as you did on your application, print your name and the words “Notary Public,” and list your expiration date.

Does a notary have to use a seal?
Although Rhode Island does not require notaries to put seals on documents, it is generally prudent for a Notary Public to do so. Some other states require notaries to use a seal, as do certain corporations or government agencies. Documents to be used in foreign countries always need to be sealed. Since a Notary Public will not always know how or where an instrument he or she is notarizing is to be used, it is always safer to use a seal.

Do I have to keep a journal of what I notarize?
Rhode Island does not at this time require that a journal be kept, however it is a good and recommended practice to keep one. This will benefit the notary public if he or she is ever required to testify as to how a particular instrument was notarized.

Are there any instances when I should refuse to notarize a document?
You should not notarize a document for someone who appears confused about what he or she is signing or appears to be coerced into signing. If the person cannot show identification, you should not notarize a document for them. However, you are considered a public servant and should not discriminate on any basis.