Getting a process servers license can include courses, exams, and background checks. Some states have specific requirements while others do not have a licensing program. Following your area requirements allows you to legally operate and can better prepare you for your job.
A process server’s main job is to deliver court documents to the defendant or person listed on the document they’re handling. Process servers can also file documents, conduct skip tracing, and other tasks and investigations. Some process servers work part-time while working other jobs. You can also start your own business or work as a contractor or employee for an existing business.
We break down the common steps you can expect to take to become a process server. We also highlight specific states and areas in our guide. But, we encourage you to confirm your requirements with your local licensing department.
Step 1: Research State and Local Licensing Requirements
Only some states and local municipalities have licensing requirements. These requirements range from meeting age minimums to passing licensing exams. We’ll cover the key differences between state and local requirements below, but these requirements are subject to change.
States with Statewide Licensing Requirements
Below, we’ve highlighted the states with statewide process server licensing requirements. States not listed may still have non-licensing requirements like education and appointments.
The State Department of Public Safety administers the Alaska process servers license. Along with the application, you’ll need to submit the listed documents.
- Sworn, signed, and notarized statement of your mental and emotional state
- Sworn, signed, and notarized that you read and understood 13 AAC 67.010 - 13 AAC 67.990
- Sworn, signed and notarized of that the information in your application is true
- Proof of a $15,000 surety bond
- Valid Alaska business license and a municipal business license
You can learn more about their application process with Alaska's application for process servers. Alaska’s requirements are required by: Alaska R. Civ. P. 4(c), Alaska Stat. § 22.20.120, and Alaska Admin. Code § 67.
The courts administer the license and applicants must apply in their county. When submitting your application, you must also complete the items listed below.
- Pass a certification exam
- Submit fingerprints
- Provide documentation of conviction or finding you identify in your application
You must also sign and notarize a statement at the end of your application. Signing the statement means you agree to the following things.
- You consent to the court to investigating claims in your application and your overall fitness for the role
- You consent people and organizations to release information related to these investigations
- You agree to faithfully serve as a process server in accordance to the law, you will be available to testify when the time arises, and you understand that this is a common and inherent task for a certified process server
- You understand the consequences of omitting information and misrepresenting yourself in your application
- You read the application and affirm that everything is true and completed the the best of your knowledge
Arizona’s private process server page provides more in-depth information on the state’s process servers license requirements. Arizona’s requirements are required by statute: Arizona R. Civ. P. 4(c) & (d), Arizona Code of Judicial Admin. § 7-204 and by court order. Arizona Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 2002-110.
County clerks administer this process and the procedures and requirements vary by county. Here’s a list of things you may need to submit when applying for a California process servers license.
- Registration with the county you reside or do business
- Proof of California surety bond or cash deposit
- Passport photos
Take a look at Sacramento’s main process servers information page and their application as an example. California’s requirements are required by statute: Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 22350
The Board of Private Security administers this state’s licensing requirements for process servers. In addition to the application and passing an exam, you must also submit the following with your license application.
- Certificate of registration
- Proof of service of process signed by a registered process server
- Recent photograph
- Proof of a Montana surety bond of $10,000 for an individual
You can apply online and use Montana’s process servers handbook and study guide for more information on their licensing process. Montana’s requirements are required by statute: Mont. Code Ann.§ 25-1-1104.
The Statewide Private Investigators Licensing Board oversees Nevada’s requirements. You can expect to do the following to get your license.
- Pass an exam with a score of 75 percent or better
- Have at least two years of process server experience (2,000 hours each year) or equivalent
- Undergo a background investigation
- Provide proof of policy insurance no less than $200,000
You can get more information on the Board’s licensing page and their first time licensee info sheet. Nevada’s requirements are required by NRS?648.017, NRS?648.018 4, NRS?648.060 1(a), NRS?648.063 2, NRS?648.110 2(d) NRS?648.1655.
Private process servers are appointed by a judge in Oklahoma. You’ll need to get a $5,000 surety bond to apply. The Oklahoma County Court Clerk’s website offers some information on becoming a process server. Oklahoma’s requirements are required by statute: Oklahoma Statute Annotated § 2004.
The Process Server Review Board oversees Texas’ licensing requirements. You can expect to complete a civil process service education course and pass a background check. You can learn more from the Texas Judicial Branch. Texas’ requirements are required by Supreme Court rule: Texas Rule of Judicial Admin. Rule 14.
States with Local Licensing Requirements
Some states may not have statewide requirements, but cities or counties within the state may have requirements for licensed process servers. We’ll go over these states and some requirements, but these are also subject to change.
Florida’s requirements are administered by individual circuit courts and requirements vary. You can expect exams, Florida surety bonds, and course requirements. Check out requirements from the 20th Judicial Circuit as an example of what to expect. Florida’s requirements are required by statute and court order: Fla. Stat. §§ 48.021, 48.29-31; Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.070; Fla. 2nd Cir. AO 2008-21.
Private investigators in Illinois can serve the process with appointments in all counties except Cook County. You can learn more about this process from the Illinois Courts. (735 ILCS 5/) Code of Civil Procedure also outlines requirements and exceptions for process servers. Illinois’ requirements are required by statute: 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/2-202, 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. 447/1-5, 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. 447/10-27, 225 Ill. Comp.Stat. 447/10-35.
Only the city of St. Louis requires licensing in Missouri. The Sheriff’s Office oversees their requirements. Process server applicants must take a 16 hour training course and post a $100,000 certificate of insurance. You can visit St. Louis’ Sheriff’s Department page to learn more. Missouri Courts Rule 54 also explains these requirements.
Some areas of New York require licensing. For example, NYC requires a background check, New York surety bonds, and an exam. You can look at New York City’s main information page and their application to get an idea of what other areas may require. NYC’s requirements are required by NYC Admin. Code §§ 20-403 and 6 RCNY § 2-233.
Step 2: Fulfill Pre-Licensing Requirements
Many states require you to submit documents and complete other forms with your application. These include fingerprints, proof of insurance, and certificates of registration. Common requirements include age minimums, business license, and proof of residence. Other requirements vary. For example, some states do not allow convicted felons to serve as process servers while others do.
You may also need to provide proof of a surety bond. If so, you’ll likely need a process server bond to protect your clients and the public in case you don’t abide by the law. The amount of your bond varies by state. In addition to securing your surety bond and insurance, you should also set aside some money to pay application, exam, and processing fees.
Step 3: Complete Training and Course Requirements
You may need to complete training programs prior to applying for your license. Depending on your state, you can find these programs at local colleges, sheriff’s offices, or your local process servers’ association. These courses typically teach you laws related to your job.
Step 4: Complete Your Exam
Passing an exam will likely be your last step before getting your license. Give yourself enough time to study for your certification test and to practice taking the test. Your local licensing department should have information on the content of the test, the test format, and study materials for the exam.
Step 5: Gain Experience
After getting your license, you can get experience by working for other companies. You can also start your own business for complete flexibility over your schedule and client roster. Some states require licensees to fulfill a continuing education requirement to maintain their licenses. Additional classes and seminars can both fulfill these requirements and expand your knowledge. Joining professional associations like the National Association of Professional Process Servers can keep you up to date with legislative changes, provide training opportunities, and expand your network to learn from other process servers. Other process servers may also offer contract work.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Process Server?
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the requirements in your state and how long it takes to process your application.
More requirements can extend your application time, especially if you need time to prepare or your area has specific time requirements. For example, they may require a specific amount of instruction time or you may need extra time to study for the licensing exam.
What Do Process Servers Make?
Process servers make about $17 an hour according to PayScale. However, pay and salary can vary greatly based on your state, experience level, and the services you provide. Other factors like how often you work and whether or not you own your own business can also affect your wages. Looking at ZipRecruiter's state breakdown, salary can range roughly between $18,000 to $52,000.
Becoming a certified process server is a great start to a flexible career that’s crucial to the legal system. You can start a business and dive in full time or you can work part time for a company. If you’re interested, you should look into some of the requirements by your state. We can walk you through the surety bond requirements for your state and get you a quote for your bond.