Notarios and the Practice of Immigration Law

by keith on July 9, 2013

A “Notarios” is an immigration consultant – BUT NOT a Lawyer!

What are “notarios”? A notario is an immigration consultant who, under California law, may help immigrants with translating and submitting forms, but cannot appear in court or give legal advice. The term “notario” comes from the Spanish term “notario public” which is used in Latin American countries to describe those who have received training that is the equivalent to a law license. These notaries advertise themselves as experts in immigration, tax preparation, family law, and other matters. However, they are not lawyers.

Promises Made – Promises often Broken

For many years now, many unscrupulous immigration consultants have preyed on immigrants seeking legal help. They promise asylum or citizenship for clients who do not qualify for such. Some are even known to charge higher fees than immigration lawyers. With the new possible immigration reform legislation pending, many of these immigration consultants are already trying to take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants by asking them to pay to get on a waiting list.”

The California State Bar is on notice of this issue and attempting to limit this immigration fraud. The Los Angeles County’s Department of Consumer Affairs is already investigating complaints and warning attorneys to be aware of this problem.

What can you do to protect yourself as an immigrant or as an attorney to protect your clients?
First be aware of what an immigration consultant can do and what they can’t do. Immigration consultants are only allowed to help consumers fill out paperwork by translating and submitting forms. They are required to give clients a written contract and register and file a $50,000 bond with the Secretary of State. Before you hire any immigration consultant check to see that they have a bond filed online at http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/sf/bond_search/ or call 916-653-3984.
Additionally many organizations have websites describing notario fraud and how to prevent it:

  • Office of the Attorney General at http://oag.ca.gov/immigrant/publications
  • U.S. Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0012-scams-against-immigrants
  • USCIS at http://www.uscis.gov/
  • American Bar Association at http://apps.americanbar.org/publicserv/immigration/notario/california.pdf
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association at http://www.stopnotariofraud.org/lawyers-help-victims.php

An Immigration Attorney Can help you expose these Frauds.

Many immigrants fear reporting these immigration consultants due to their fear of deportation. By seeking out an immigration attorney, you can report this fraud to them who can then help you write a statement regarding the fraud. The chief consumer affairs investigator with Los Angeles County, Rigo Reyes, advises that the authorities are willing to work with people no matter what their immigration status.

To report immigration fraud, all you need to do is to file a written statement with your local district attorneys’ offices or with the state Attorney General’s office through their online consumer complaint form. Complaints may also be filed with the FTC at http://ftc.gov/complaint or calling 877-382-4357.

These immigration consultants are required to post signs stating they are not lawyers. However, many do not post these signs and furthermore claim to be able to do more than immigration lawyers. Be very aware of this. Not only are they known to charge more than lawyers and simply just take your money, but many times the paperwork they file is very poorly prepared or incorrect.
If you fear that you may have been taken advantage of one of these “notaries” please see an immigration attorney.


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