Getting Robbed by the U.S. State Department

I went to the U.S. Embassy a few days ago to get a single document notarized. I left there pissed off as usual.

Now, before we go any further, let’s evaluate just exactly what physical work goes into the notary process. Bear with me for a minute because I’ve never been a notary. I’m going off my own rough observations and deductions. I stay drunk most of the time so I could be way off base here.

What Exactly is the Notary Process? I’m Confused.

Well, the job seems to consist of a person signing their name on a piece of paper with an ink pen. The person then applies some pressure to a stamp of sorts to create an embossed seal. That makes the paper look real pretty and all official. It’s not exactly hard work I don’t think, but I may be wrong. However, in all of my travels, I’ve never observed anyone work up a sweat while notarizing a document.

I don’t think it’s a very complex procedure like neurosurgery, skinning a rabbit, or doing your taxes. I’ve never seen a notary go through a takeoff and landing checklist prior to pushing down on that stamp. They just mash on the thing without any safety precautions or verbal warning that it’s about to occur.

It doesn’t seem to require a college education to be able to accomplish the task. I’m pretty damn sure I could teach an eight year old to be a notary. My conclusion is that the notary process is not very technical, difficult, nor is it hard labor. Therefore, how can it be so expensive at the U.S. Embassy?

The Secret Million-Dollar Profession – Who Knew?

The cost of notarizing one page at a U.S. Embassy in Southeast Asia is $50 U.S. dollars! Wow!

Holy Shit! I should have been a career notary. I’d be rich.

I estimate the notary process takes approximately 15 seconds:

  • Five seconds to look at my passport and make sure it’s really me.
  • Five seconds to properly position and push down on the stamp.
  • Five seconds for the signature and date.

With that time estimate, it means that a notary can, theoretically, notarize four pages per minute. At $50 U.S. dollars per page, that’s a whopping $200 per minute! That works out to $12,000 U.S. dollars per hour! God damn, man! Let me simplify the math in bullet points for those not so swift:

  • $200 per minute
  • $12,000 per hour
  • $96,000 per 8-hour shift

I’m calling the International Olympic Committee. They need to immediately include the notarizing of a document as the newest olympic sport. The sport could be judged on time, form, symmetry of the signature, and evenness of the stamp. Nike might want to sign some of the athletes to a contract promoting gloves, ink pens, ink, paper, etc. The opportunities are endless.

Service vs. Robbery

The embassy calls the department “U.S. Citizen Services” but I disagree with that name. Fifty dollars for a notary stamp and a signature is not the definition of service. It’s closer to robbery. Actually, it’s extortion because the notary stamp is something you are required to obtain. It’s mandatory. You are forced to pay for the notary stamp by the same system that requires you to notarize the document in the first place. It’s not optional. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy can charge any amount of money they choose. Expats and world travelers have to pay the price. It’s a shakedown on a global scale.

Who are we to complain to? It took an act of Congress just to get into the damn embassy. Embassy employees could give two shits about anyone’s opinion. If you think a government employee, especially one from the U.S. State Department, cares about a citizen’s opinion then you’re delusional.

I’m not happy that every time I need something notarized, it costs me an arm and a leg at the U.S. Embassy. I never feel like I have received a service when I leave there. After getting searched, having my cell phone taken from me like I’m a child, getting crammed in a tiny room with chairs so close together that you trip over other patrons when trying to sit down, and forced to converse with a person through bullet-proof glass, I feel like I got booked into prison. When I finally exit from the walls of the U.S. embassy, I want to kiss the ground and celebrate my successful escape.

Take note that if you plan to become an expat and live outside the U.S., beware of the hidden costs associated with trying to handle business from afar.


Is this satire? I think so.

Am I (and every other expat) severely pissed off at paying $50 bucks for a simple notary stamp? Yes, we are.

Is this post a bit ridiculous? Yep, but not as ridiculous as charging $50 dollars for a notary stamp.

According to the Congressional Budget Justification, Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

“This year, our budget request for the Department of State and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) totals $50.3 billion.”

Damn, I just lost my train of thought. I’ve had a few beers and all I can think about is how many notary stamps you can buy with that much money. Probably enough to wrap around the world a few times. Listen, with the enormous amount of money the U.S. State Department wastes on absolute bullshit, a simple task such as notarizing documents should be free for expats—i.e., U.S. citizens—i.e., the motherfuckers who worked and contributed to those fat budgets for years.

A Solution to the Problem

Hey, I’m a realist. We all know that U.S. government employees aren’t very smart when it comes to managing money. (20 trillion in national debt would be the first small indicator of this.) They probably forgot to budget for proper notary equipment. Therefore, allow me to offer a solution. If the $50.3 billion isn’t enough to buy some ink pens and new notary stamps, there’s no need to worry. The expat community in every country will pass around a collection plate and buy the equipment ourselves. We will issue the gear to our respective embassies on a hand receipt. When we show up to get documents notarized, just credit us the $50 bucks a page as rent money and we’ll call it even.


  1. Ab.So.Lut.Ely. correct. Prior to a similar experience at a Uncle Sam’s embassy ($100 for two pieces of paper)I went to a local gov office for some routine paperwork. They charged me $4.00 and the paperwork was issued from a vending machine — already stamped.

  2. Yep.

    The more I think about this issue, the more pissed off I get. The State Department wastes tons of money every day on totally worthless projects and bullshit.

    So, why in the hell are we U.S. citizens getting robbed every time we step inside the Embassy?

    It makes no fucking sense. All “citizen services” for U.S. citizens should be 100% free. That’s it. They need to allocate funds to help the people who gave them the money in the first place.

  3. Particularly when, as a United States citizen, you are required to pay income taxes on any income earned wherever in the world it is earned. We are being played as usual.

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