How to Become a California Registered Process Server  

  CAUTION: This is general information about the registration process.  Each County Clerk handles the registration process a little differently.  You should first check with the particular County Clerk to ascertain how that particular registration process is completed. The registration process can be completed in as little as 20 minutes, with proper planning, or within one or two hours otherwise. Once you have the bond, you may commence the registration process.   

    The 2 year bond should cover the term of the registration so you should specify a particular start date as the day you plan to register at the County Clerk's office.  A bond can range from $49.00 to $175.00. Contact Process Server Institute for a bond application to send to a bonding company, and specify which county you plan to register in. Registration is statewide, and you need to register in only one county.  Once you have the bond, you may commence the registration process.

    The applicant will sign the bond before a Notary Public.

    The signed bond should then be copied and delivered to the County Clerk to commence the registration.

    You may also post $2000.00 instead, but because the bond is like insurance, the County Clerk will not return the $2000.00 until 3 years after the registration terminates.

    Since 2005 all County Clerks must accept and submit to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) fingerprints done by “Live Scan”, an electronic fingerprinting procedure that scans the prints and transmits them electronically. They are no longer permitted to submit fingerprint cards to the DOJ, unless they file an exemption with the DOJ. Some counties, however, notably Alameda County, apparently still request fingerprint cards instead.  Each county handles this process differently. If fingerprint cards are used, the applicant must have them done on an "FD-258" card.

     Fees range from free to over $85.00. The DOJ has posted on their web site locations, hours and prices where Live Scan Applicants may have this done.  You may find that page here:

    The fingerprints are needed to conduct felony background checks through the State of California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The “Fingerprint Processing Fee” for the background check is $51.00 and, in Los Angeles County, that fee is bundled into the total registration fee paid to the County Clerk, currently $232.00.

Generally, the registration process is commenced by first checking with the County Clerk to ascertain their requirements.  In most counties, the County Clerk will provide the process server applicant with a Request for Live Scan Service form (BCII 8016), upon which an ORI (Originating Agency Identification) Number will be entered. The ORI number is necessary for the Live Scan operator to initiate the process, and the DOJ to complete the process, and identifies the particular agency to which the background check, or felony report must be sent - The particular County Clerk's office where your registrations is filed. This is why the process must originate with the office of the County Clerk and not the Live Scan location.    

It may involve a trip to the County Clerk to initiate the registration process and to obtain the multi-part "Request for Live Scan Service" form, then a trip to a Live Scan location for the fingerprint process. Upon completion, the Live Scan operator will sign and return to the applicant a copy of the Request for Live Scan Service form to the applicant to return it to the County Clerk as proof confirming that the Live Scan fingerprinting process was completed, and for completion of the registration.

Note: If you have been convicted of a felony, you must first obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Pardon. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has posted a description of the process entitled "How to Apply for a Pardon"  describing this process.  Copy or print and save this article because they move the link occasionally.

     Eugene Kinsey, Esq. of Seal Beach, CA has posted an excellent article describing the certification process entitled Free Forms to Clear (Expunge) a Criminal Record in California.

     Some County Clerks take the picture in the office as a part of the registration process, and you should ask them about the picture requirement before you leave the County Clerk's office to go the Live Scan location.

    Most Mailboxes Etc./UPS Stores, drug stores or photography studios can do this for about $10.00. You'll need at least 2 pictures.

    The Certificate of Registration is a statement that the registrant been a resident for at least one year and has not been convicted of a felony.  The registrant certifies that he or she will perform his or her duties as a process server in compliance with the laws governing service of process.    

    The Certificate and the bond are filed together with County Clerk, and the documents are dispatched internally to the County Recorder for recording.  The original bond will be returned via mail to the applicant after recording.

    The proper county for filing a Certificate of Registration is where the server resides or does business.  The filing fee ranges from $90.00 to $232.00 and varies from county to county.  Some counties add a fee for issuing an ID card, taking a photo for the card, and bundle the $51.00 “Fingerprint Processing Fee” into the total fee. 

    Once the Certificate of Registration and Bond are filed, the fingerprints are submitted, and the fees are paid, the County Clerk will issue the applicant a registration number and a temporary Process Server Registration ID Card with the name, address, photo and registration number. The card is good for 60 days and if no negative felony report is received from either the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the County Clerk will send a permanent card that will expire at the end of the two-year registration period. 

The registration is a statewide registration authorizing service throughout the state of California.  The county of registration and the registration number must be entered on proofs of service signed by the process server.

Process Server Institute
667 Folsom St., 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA  94107
Fax: 415/495-8730

We conduct process serving seminars and publish The Registered Process Server’s Guide to Service of Process in California.