It is important to be careful about who you trust with your immigration case. Immigration is a complex field, involving proper filing of paperwork and, sometimes, legal representation.
Unfortunately, notary scams are becoming all too common in the United States. Notaries or Notarios are not licensed to practice immigration law. There are many dangers to hiring a notary to handle your immigration case.
What is a Notario?
Notario is a word commonly used in Spanish to describe a Notary Public.
In Latin America, a Notary Public is a high-ranking official such as a judge or a lawyer. However, a Notary Public in the United States is prohibited from preparing legal documents or advising on immigration matters, unless they are also an attorney.
In the United States, notaries are simply required to take a free, short course, with no required exit exam. They must then pay $39 to register. Some states require notaries to get surety bonds, intended to ensure they pay should they be found dishonest. However, there are generally no other requirements to set up shop as a notary.
Why Choose an Attorney Over a Notary?
Hiring a notary can, at best, delay your immigration application, and you may find yourself paying unnecessary fees. Sometimes, notarios can make simple mistakes that will cause a case to be placed in deportation proceedings.
Notarios are not authorized to provide legal advice on cases. Therefore, hiring a licensed and experienced attorney is always in your best interest.
AILA, the American Immigration Lawyers association, together with the American Bar Association has launched a campaign called Stop Notario Fraud in an effort to minimize consequences for the immigrant society. https://stopnotariofraud.org/ has several helpful resources discussing notario fraud.