Washington state recently joined the nationwide battle against the growing threat of Notario Publico fraud by passing a new law that prohibits unauthorized individuals from falsely representing themselves as lawyers on immigration issues.
Senate Bill 5023, signed by Governor Chris Gregoire earlier this month, specifically prohibits Notaries from advertising themselves as Notarios Publicos. In many Hispanic nations, Notarios refers to individuals with significant legal education and expertise whose authority is akin to that of an attorney or judge. This differs from a U.S. Notary, who is commissioned by the state to serve the public in a limited role as an impartial witness in the signing of documents and the administering of oaths.
Unethical persons exploit this misunderstanding by advertising themselves as Notarios and offering unauthorized legal advice. Victims of this fraud often pay thousands of dollars for poor advice, ultimately damaging their chances of successful immigration.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Margarita Prentice (D-Renton), also eliminated the status and definition of “immigration assistants,” who formerly had the ability to offer non-legal services such as filling out forms and obtaining birth certificate copies. The bill strictly prohibits non-lawyers from offering advice or interpreting the meanings of questions posed in immigration documents.