ME House Bill 1398 | NNA
Law

ME House Bill 1398

Notary Law Update: ME House Bill 1398

State: Maine

Summary:

Maine becomes the latest state to regulate the business of nonattorney immigration assistance services.

Signed:  May 04, 2006

Effective:  May 04, 2006

Chapter: 9629

Affects:

Adds Section 807-B and 970 to Title 4 and amends Section 955-C of Title 4 of the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated (MRSA)

Changes:
  1. Enacts the “Immigration and Nationality Law Assistance Act,” which defines the unauthorized practice of immigration and nationality law and authorized “nonlegal immigration and nationality law assistance” performed by nonattorneys.
  2. Limits “nonlegal immigration law assistance” to: (a) translating from English into a customer’s primary language questions on an immigration form; (b) translating from a customer’s primary language into English and otherwise transcribing to an immigration form the customer’s answers to questions on that form; (c) securing or assisting the customer to secure supporting documents currently in existence, that may be needed for submission with immigration forms; (d) Making referrals for legal representation with respect to an immigration and nationality law matter to an attorney or to a federally authorized immigration representative authorized to provide legal immigration services.
  3. Prohibits any person providing nonlegal immigration law assistance from providing legal advice on immigration and nationality law matters, representing or advertising using the terms “notario,” “immigration consultant,” “immigration agent,” “immigration assistant, or “attorney that could cause a customer to believe that the provider of immigration assistance is authorized to practice law in the state or possesses special skill or expertise in immigration and nationality law matters, unless the person is an attorney licensed to practice law in the state or is a federally authorized immigration representative. (Note: the new law contains additional prohibitions not noted here.)
  4. Specifies that a violation of the Act constitutes an unfair method of competition and a deceptive act or practice in the conduct of trade or commerce and is punishable as a civil violation with a fine of not more than $5,000. In addition, a customer who is aggrieved by a violation of the Act may initiate a civil action for injunctive relief or damages or both. (Note: the Act prescribes amounts the court could award to the customer.)
  5. Requires a nonattorney Notary who advertises Notary services in a non-English language to post a the following prescribed notice in the advertisement in both English and the foreign language in a conspicuous size: “I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN MAINE AND MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE ABOUT IMMIGRATION OR ANY OTHER LEGAL MATTER OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL ADVICE.”​
Analysis:

Maine becomes the latest state to regulate the business of nonattorney immigration assistance services.

Since immigrants commonly believe U.S. Notaries have the same legal background and expertise as Notaries in their countries of origin, the new law contains the common prohibitions against using the literal translation of the term “Notary Public” into a foreign language, and requires all nonattorney Notaries who advertise in a foreign language to include in the advertisement the common prescribed notice that the Notary is not an attorney who can offer legal advise and accept fees for legal services.

The new law institutes tough penalties for violating the Act, and was enacted as an emergency statute taking immediate effect upon approval by the Governor.

Read the bill text.

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