Immigration Section
April 2014 Issue
Content is updated daily

Avoiding Unauthorized Practice Of Law In Immigration Proceedings

Responding to the U.S. Government’s recent announcement of a new, multi-agency initiative to crack down on Notario fraud and immigration scams, The Immigration Section emphasizes the importance of understanding exactly which acts you are authorized to perform within the immigration process — and which acts are prohibited.

The primary aim of the new federal initiative is to pursue and prosecute people involved in the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL). Given the role that Notaries perform within the immigration process, and the harsh ramifications if a Notary oversteps his or her bounds, we’ve compiled a list of actions that you can and can not do. This list must be supplemented by careful review of the pertinent laws and official directives in your state.

Nonattorney Notaries:

  • Can administer oaths and affirmation
  • Can verify a signer’s identity, willingness and awareness
  • Can certify copies of documents in some states
  • Can not choose certificates for clients
  • Can not determine what type of notarial act to perform
  • Can not prepare or complete documents for clients
  • Can not give or offer advice
  • Can not advertise themselves as Notarios or Notario Publicos
  • Can not help clients fill out paperwork
  • Can not represent a person in immigration proceedings/hearings
  • Can not perform any acts outside of your jurisdiction

Nonattorney Notaries Should Exercise Caution When:

  • Supplying Forms: The Notary may supply a form upon request, but should never recommend a certain type of document or certificate.
  • Translating: A translator who is also a Notary may not certify a translation and also notarize the translator’s declaration.
  • Typing Dictated Words: When typing language for a document as it is dictated by the signer, the role is strictly secretarial and the signer’s words must be the exact words typed.

Notaries Who Are Also Licensed Attorneys:

  • Can represent aliens in immigration proceedings, as long as they are eligible to practice law and are a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of their given state.
  • Can charge or accept fees for legal services.

Notaries Who Are Also Accredited Representatives:

  • Must be officially designated by an organization that is recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
  • Can assist aliens in immigration proceedings before both the Executive Office for Immigration Review immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals, and before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [Fully accredited].
  • Can assist aliens in immigration proceedings before only the DHS [Partially accredited].
  • Can charge or accept a nominal fee set by their organization.
  • Must renew their accreditation every 3 years, via applications with the Board.
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