Notaries in U.S. Territories

notaries U.S. TerritoriesNotaries in U.S. Territories

In addition to the notaries in the fifty states and the District of Columbia, there are notaries in U.S. Territories. U.S. Territories are sub-national administrative divisions directly overseen by the United States federal government.

Currently, the United States has sixteen territories, but only five are permanently inhabited.

In population order, the U.S. Territories, their capitals, locations, and populations are:
1. Puerto Rico, San Juan, Caribbean, 3.4 million
2. Guam, Hagåtña, Micronesia, North Pacific, 159 thousand
3. U.S. Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, Caribbean, 106 thousand
4. Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan, Micronesia, North Pacific, 77 thousand
5. American Samoa, Pago Pago, Polynesia, South Pacific, 56 thousand

They are organized, self-governing territories with locally elected governors and territorial legislatures. The citizens do not vote in the general election for U.S. President.

The other eleven territories are small islands, atolls, and reefs, spread across the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, with no native or permanent populations. Thirty-one former territories became states. The last two states were Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.

Some previous U.S. Territories became independent countries: the Philippines 1946, Micronesia 1979, Marshall Islands 1979, and Palau 1981.

The Panama Canal Zone was a U.S. Territory from 1903 to 1979, now owned by Panama. [See the article describing Canal Zone notaries in the Panama Canal Review, May 6, 1955.]

1. Notaries in Puerto Rico

Flag Puerto RicoPuerto Rico was a Spanish colony for four centuries after Columbus arrived. The U.S. took possession in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

The notaries are civil law notaries, based on Latin law. To become a notary, an attorney (abogado) who is admitted to practice law must be a member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and authorized to practice as a notary by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.

Spanish is the dominant language in Puerto Rico with English as a second language. Almost all official agencies in Puerto Rico work in Spanish.
With the economic debt crisis, many agencies are short-handed or backlogged.

Training and exam: Notaries must pass an exam. Once sworn in, can practice as a notary for life.
Notary powers: drafting deeds, oaths and affirmations, issuing statements of authenticity and affidavits, certifying copies or transcripts, certifying facts witnessed by notary, certifying foreign language translations provided the notary knows both languages, compiling and maintaining protocols (records), protecting and storing documents, securities, and sums that individuals deposit to secure contracts.
Notary journal: keep records known as protocols of notary acts for each calendar year. Notes at the protocol opening and closing each year shall be signed, sealed, flourished and dated by the attesting notary.  Keep in fireproof steel or iron box.
Notary seal: design regulated by Puerto Rican Bar Association.
Fee schedule: fees vary depending on the acts and services provided.
Venue: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
City/County of __________
Referencenotary laws for Puerto Rico

2. Notaries in Guam

Flag GuamThe natives of Guam are the Chamorro people who arrived 4,000 years ago.  Magellan arrived in 1521. In 1898, Spain ceded Guam to the United States following the Spanish-American War. It is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands and was a Spanish colony for three centuries. The economy is based on tourism and U.S. military bases including Naval Base Guam, Coast Guard Sector Guam, and Andersen Air Force Base.

Training and exam: Notaries must pass an exam.
Notary powers: acknowledgments, oaths, and affirmations, jurats, copy certifications.
Notary journal: must keep a permanently bound journal.
Notary seal: black ink, photographically reproducible image of official seal shall include notary’s name, “Notary Public, in and for the Territory of Guam, U.S.A.”, “My commission expires [date]”, notary’s business or residence address, rectangular border.
Embossed seal impression that may be photographically reproducible shall be used in addition to but not in lieu of the reproducible seal.
Fee schedule: must be in English language.
Venue: Territory of Guam
Referencenotary laws for Guam

3. Notaries in U.S.Virgin Islands

Flag US Virgin IslandsU.S. Virgin Islands, previously known as the Danish West Indies, purchased from Denmark in 1917. The islands, 40 miles east of Puerto Rico, became royal Danish colonies in 1754, growing sugar cane, produced by African slave labor, and making rum. The primary economic activity is tourism including cruise ships. There is a current financial crisis due to very high debt.

Training and exam: No training course or exam.
Notary powers: acknowledgments of deeds and other instruments, administer oaths and affirmations, perform such other acts as may be authorized by law.
Notary journal: keep an official record in which a memorandum of all official acts shall be noted.
Notary seal: official impression seal bearing name, date of expiration of commission, and judicial division.
Venue: Territory of the Virgin Islands
Judicial Division of __________
Referencenotary laws for U.S. Virgin Islands

4. Notaries in Northern Mariana Islands

Flag Northern MarianaThe Northern Mariana Islands were first settled by Chamorros from southeast Asia 4,000 years ago. Portuguese-born navigator Ferdinand Magellan, exploring for Spain, arrived on March 6, 1521, on the first global circumnavigation. Magellan’s fleet had 5 ships, each with a notary/clerk, but only one survived the whole trip and returned to Spain, Martín Mendez of Seville, aboard the Victoria. Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan (Philippines) by native warriors on April 27, 1521.

In 1734, the Spanish built a royal palace in Guam, the southernmost Mariana island, for the governor. In 1899, Spain sold the Northern Mariana Islands to Germany following the Spanish-American War. After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the Northern Marianas were administered by the United States, and a covenant to become a commonwealth was approved in 1975. The economy is based on tourism and trade.

Training and exam: No training course or exam.
Notary powers: may administer oaths and affirmations, receive proof and acknowledgment of writings, and present and protest commercial paper.
Notary journal: keep record of all acts in a book of records, records shall be deposited with Attorney General each year on June 30.
Notary seal: may be a rubber stamp or impression seal, engraved with his or her name, and the words “Notary Public” and “Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”
Venue: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Referencenotary laws for Northern Mariana Islands

5. Notaries in American Samoa

Flag American SamoaCitizens of American Samoa are not U.S. citizens but are U.S. Nationals. The eastern Samoa islands became a U.S. territory in 1900 with a Navy base at Pago Pago Bay. Major employers are the territorial government and a StarKist tuna cannery.

Training and exam: Notaries must take 3-hour training course and pass exam.
Notary powers: acknowledgments, oaths and affirmations, jurats, signature witnessings, copy certifications.
Notary journal: must keep a permanently bound book, must record circumstances for not completing a notarial act.
Notary seal: photographically reproducible image of official seal shall include notary’s name, commission number, “Notary Public”, “Territory of American Samoa”, “My commission expires [date]”, notary’s business address, rectangular border no larger than 1 x 2 inches.
Any seal image affixed by an adhesive label shall bear a preprinted sequential number which shall be recorded in the journal of notarial acts for its respective notarization.
Embossed seal impression that is not photographically reproducible may be used in addition to but not in lieu of the reproducible seal.
Fee schedule: must be in English or Samoan language.
Venue: Territory of American Samoa
County of __________
Referencenotary laws for American Samoa

Disclaimer: All information on notaries in U.S. Territories is subject to change due to changes in the law and rules. Always verify information before making a decision or taking any action.

Updated [2024-01-24] added info about five Magellan notaries, one survivor

Image Credits:
1. Puerto Rico stamp, San Juan, sentry box at El Morro by Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Arago: people, postage & the post) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Guam Coat of Arms, by Open Clip Art Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Flags of U.S. Territories, [Public domain]

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