DC B21-0724 | NNA
Law

DC B21-0724

Notary Law Update: DC B21-0724

State: Washington DC

Summary:

DC B21-0724 establishes rules for the performance of nonlegal immigration services by non-attorney immigration service providers who charge a fee for their services.

Signed:  January 06, 2017

Effective:  May 17, 2017

Chapter: TBD

Affects:

Adds Chapter 53 to Title 28 of the District of Columbia Official Code.

Changes:
  1. Defines “immigration service” as any service related to an immigration matter.
  2. Defines “immigration service provider” as a person who provides an immigration service to a client for a fee, excluding an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States; a legal clinic affiliated with an accredited law school in the District of Columbia; an individual authorized to represent individuals in immigration matters under 8 CFR § 292.1; or a nonprofit organization that has been recognized under 8 CFR.  § 292.2.
  3. Defines “immigration matter” as any legal proceeding, filing, or action that pertains to the immigration or citizenship status of a client or consumer and arises under any federal immigration law, presidential order, federal executive agency action, or proclamation by a foreign country.
  4. Prohibits an immigration service provider from: (a) providing legal representation for an immigration matter; (b) making a misrepresentation or false statement to influence, persuade, or encourage a client to use the immigration service provider; (c) insinuating or making a statement that the immigration service provider can or will obtain special favors from or has special influence with the United States Department of Homeland Security, the United States Department of Labor, the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, the United States Department of Commerce, or any other agency, office, or instrumentality of the United States government; (d) collecting any fees or other compensation for an immigration service that has not yet been performed; (e) refusing to return documents supplied by, prepared by, or paid for by a client, at the client's request; (f) representing, advertising, or communicating in any manner that the immigration service provider possesses titles or credentials that would qualify the immigration service provider to provide legal representation; or (g) translating in any document any words or titles, including "notary public", "notary", "licensed", "attorney", or "lawyer", that imply that the immigration service provider is an attorney.
  5. Prohibits the translation of the phrase "notary public" into Spanish as "notario" or "notario publico."
  6. Requires an immigration service provider to post, in English and every language the provider offers services, a sign that includes the name of the provider and a prescribed statement that the provider is not an attorney and may not provide legal immigration assistance. Signs must be posted at every location where the immigration service provider meets with clients
  7. Requires an immigration service provider to execute a written contract, in English and in each language in which the provider offers services, with each client before providing immigration assistance services and to provide a copy of the contract to the client after it is signed.
  8. Specifies the following information that must be included in every immigration assistance contract: (a) an explanation of the services provided; (b) an itemization of the fees to be charged; (c) specified consumer protection disclosures, including the client’s right to cancel the contract within 72 hours, to consult with an attorney before signing the contract, to obtain any document from the provider, even in the event of a fee dispute, and to report complaints to the Attorney General; (d) the current phone number for the Attorney General’s office; (d) the prescribed statement that the immigration assistance provider is not an attorney; and (d) a prescribed statement that the provider cannot accept fees for referrals to an attorney. Certain disclosures must be prominently displayed in at least 12-point bold type.
  9. Provides that a violation of the chapter is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to a year, or both.
  10. Provides that a failure to comply with the chapter is an unlawful trade practice.
  11. Provides that the penalties for violations are not exclusive and are in addition to any other penalties imposed by law.
Analysis:

The District of Columbia is the latest U.S. jurisdiction to recognize and regulate the services of non-attorney immigration services providers. These providers typically provide services to immigrants seeking changes in their immigration status. The services include completing forms with answers provided by the client, translating form questions and answers, and obtaining supporting documents to accompany a filing, among others. The new law is mainly comprised of a listing of prohibited acts and requirements for the contracts of immigration assistance providers. Like many similar laws, the District’s law includes criminal penalties. The new law must undergo the mandatory 60-day Congressional review before it becomes law. The projected effective date is May 17, 2017.

Read the bill text.

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