In an ongoing effort to combat predatory immigration assistant scams, more states are enacting laws regulating those who offer assistance to immigrants. Several states, including Utah, Michigan, and California now require individuals to register as immigration consultants, submit to background checks, and post immigration bonds.
These laws help ensure that Notaries licensed to provide immigration services — or those who want to enter the growing field — are properly trained to assist immigrant legally, and are compliant with state law.
Effective July 1, a new Utah law will require that those who provide immigration-related services be registered with the Utah Commerce Department as immigration consultants and pay an application fee that covers a criminal background check. Similar laws in Michigan and California require those providing non-legal services to immigrants to register with their respective states. Immigration bonds are required in all three states.
Immigration bonds are designed to protect the public against administrative errors committed during the immigration process, not including those related to notarization. Notaries who wish to expand their skill sets can apply to become immigration consultants, and are required to post the mandatory immigration bond in addition to their notarial bond.
The NNA reminds Notaries that if you are involved with immigration-related cases and are not authorized to do so, offering advice or assistance is considered unauthorized practice of law and can result in harsh penalties, including fees, suspended commission, or even criminal charges. Utah, like many U.S. states, prohibits using foreign-language terms like 'Notario Publico' in advertising to mislead customers into thinking the Notary may offer legal advice to immigrants.