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Notary Bulletin

Anti-Notario Efforts Expand In America

A growing number of states are taking swift action against a rise in fraudulent immigration consultants, many of which are operating under the guise of “Notarios Publicos.”

In many Spanish-speaking countries, Notarios are highly trained legal professionals akin to lawyers or judges who can dispense legal advice and assistance. Unscrupulous individuals in the United States have taken advantage of that perception to pose as immigration specialists, charging exorbitant fees for services they cannot legally perform.

During the past year, the Tennessee Attorney General has aggressively investigated and taken legal action against Notaries who advertise as Notarios Publicos in order to prey on unsuspecting immigrants. Tennessee, like many other states, has strict laws that restrict such advertising.

Authorities in Michigan, Washington and many other states have also brought enforcement actions against Notario operations. And the American Bar Association has launched a nationwide project to get immigration lawyers to file civil suits to stop this deception. The first two such actions took place in Maryland and Virginia.

The rise in enforcement actions comes with the rapid growth in immigrant populations throughout the U.S. Tennessee, for example, has seen the number of foreign-born residents living within its borders grow by more than 55 percent between 2000 and 2006, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many states, such as California and Colorado, require Notaries to include disclaimers in foreign language advertisements stating that they are not licensed to practice law and may not give legal advice. Other states restrict or prohibit the use of various terms or translations. Florida, for example, prohibits any translation of the term “Notary Public” into a foreign language; Arizona bars Notaries from using the term Notario Publico in any advertisement.

To protect themselves, Notaries — especially those connected to immigration-related services — should always make sure their advertisements make it clear they are not legal professionals and cannot offer advice or represent clients in official proceedings.

 

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