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Notary Bulletin

States Taking Aim At Notarios, Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law

The nationwide federal crackdown against immigration assistance scams and the unauthorized practice of law has resulted in more than a dozen states filing nearly 70 criminal or civil cases against individuals and businesses, including those who advertise themselves as Notario Publicos.

Attorneys General in Tennessee, Maryland, Colorado, New York, New Mexico, Indiana, Texas, Washington and other states have announced aggressive enforcement measures designed to combat these scams targeting unaware immigrants. The combined federal, state and local campaign is the most significant coordinated effort at combating Notario abuse in U.S. history.

For more than four decades the National Notary Association has helped combat Notariofraud by advising Notaries, government officials and the public about the dangers of the unauthorized practice of immigration law. Among other public awareness programs, the NNA continues to distribute, at no charge, a brochure entitled “What Is A Notary Public?”— written in both English and Spanish — to federal and state agencies, as well as community organizations.

In Hispanic countries, Notarios Publicos are highly trained legal professionals akin to attorneys who provide legal advice and draft legal documents. American Notaries, however, are state-commissioned officials authorized to perform a more limited range of witnessing duties. Many unethical individuals exploit the confusion over these different roles to take advantage of unsuspecting immigrants. American Notaries must be careful when dealing with immigrants to avoid overstepping their authority.

Non-attorney Notaries must not:

  • Prepare or complete documents for clients
  • Give or offer advice
  • Advertise themselves as Notarios or Notarios Publicos
  • Help clients fill out paperwork
  • Represent a person in immigration proceedings/hearings

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