How to Become a California Process Server

Process servers deliver legal documents to individuals involved in a court proceeding. In California, the server must be 18 years old and cannot be a party to the case (i.e. Plaintiff, Defendant, Petitioner, or Respondent) and the server must deliver the documents in person or by another legal method allowable under the laws of the state, county, or local government. California process servers must register with the county clerk's office and, once registered, may serve legal documents anywhere in the state. The registration requirements and fees vary by county, but all individuals who complete more than 10 services per year, for compensation, must go through the county government to register to serve process in California.


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    Map Your Route. Registration as a process server can be completed in as little as one day; there are only 4 requirements.
    • Fingerprinting [$30 - $100] (this will require an in-person appearance at a fingerprinting location).
    • Surety Bond [$50] (optional, but will save you from having to give the county clerk $2,000; may not require an in-person appearance as bonds can often be purchased through online forms and bond documents received by email, fax, or mail).
    • Two (2) Passport Photos [$10 - $30] (for your identification cards, some counties do not require these to be obtained ahead-of-time but instead take photos at the time of registration).
    • Application & Fee [~$100 - $200] (also requires an in-person appearance).
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    The Fingerprinting. All applicants for a process server registration in California must submit fingerprints for a background check.
    • The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations conduct the background investigations on all applicants for registration as a process server but the investigation does not normally have to be complete to register with the County. Most counties will issue a temporary process server identification with a completed live-scan (fingerprinting) application, but applicants must pass the background investigations (i.e. cannot have any felony convictions) in order to receive the permanent registration and identification.
    • The county clerk determines the type of fingerprinting required by process server applicants. The county clerk may require fingerprint cards or a scanning process available through a law enforcement agency. The clerk's office may allow the applicant to determine the type of fingerprinting to submit to the clerk's office. Live-Scan applications are often acceptable, but check with your local county clerk for specific rules.
    • Schedule an appointment with the law enforcement (or Live-Scan) agency to obtain fingerprint cards or a scan of the fingerprints. Some locations accept walk-ins during certain hours.
    • Applicants should bring identification to the law enforcement agency when making a request for fingerprinting.
    • The law enforcement agency may provide the applicant with a completed request form to bring to the county clerk's office at the time of registration but it is advisable to bring a blank fingerprinting form (obtained from the county clerk's office or website) just in case.
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    The Surety Bond for $2,000 (or $2,000 cash). The state of California requires process servers carry a surety bond for $2,000 for the 2-year term of the registration as a process server or, as an alternative to the bond, the registrant may deposit with the clerk, cash or a money order in the amount of two thousand dollars ($2,000).
    • The state requires the date on the surety bond to be effective on, or before, the date of application for process server registration and the permanent registration will expire 2 years after the date of registration or on the date of expiration of the surety bond, whichever occurs first. For those waiting for appointments to obtain fingerprints, contact the insurance company to ensure the policy starts on or before the date of registration.
    • The surety bond can be purchased for as little as $50, may not require any in-person appearance (submit forms and payment by e-mail or fax), and can sometimes be granted on the same day. Just search for "California surety bond" on your favorite search engine.
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    Get the Passport Photos. Check with the local county clerk's office to determine if you need to bring passport photos or whether the clerk's office will take photos for applicants. Each county is different so if the specific clerk's office requires applicants to bring passport photos, go get them.
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    Go to the county clerk's office. If you can, fill out a process server registration form in advance or download one online from the specific county clerk's website (if available). Some counties expect applicants to complete the registration form in person at the clerk's office and do not provide blank forms in advance or without the required fingerprint form and surety bond documents. Either way, do not sign the registration form in advance; the clerk must witness the signature of the document.
    • The county clerk in each county in the state of California will only register process servers who live in the county or who provide a business address within the county.
    • Pay the Fees. The registration fees vary from county to county as do acceptable methods of payment. Some counties accept cash, credit, debit, check, or money order, but not all (check with the specific county clerk's office ahead of time). As of April 2013, fees ranged from: $107 in Orange County, $125 in San Francisco County, $180 in Los Angeles County. Check the specific county clerk's website (or call or visit) for specific information (and also to download forms for fingerprinting or application).
    • Submit the Registration Form, Bond Documents, Fingerprint forms, photos, and fees. The applicant should also bring photo identification to the registration.


  • Bring your valid government-issued photo ID when purchasing the surety bond, getting fingerprinted, and applying to register at the clerk's office.
  • The applicant should not sign the registration form until he completes all the steps and he is ready to appear before the county clerk for registration. The clerk must witness the signature of the document.
  • Check with your local county clerk for specific rules regarding the above procedure; each county accepts different forms of payment, has different rules regarding fingerprinting, and may or may not require passport photos to be obtained in advance and brought to the clerk's office.

Sources and Citations

  • [1] California Business And Professions Code Sections 22350-22360 (Governing Process Servers)
  • [2] Calspro Process Server Information Page
  • [3] Serve-now Process Server Information Page
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