UT Senate Bill 144 | NNA
Law

UT Senate Bill 144

Notary Law Update: UT Senate Bill 144

State: Utah

Summary:

As the immigrant population swells across the country, in recent years certain states have enacted statutes regulating the activities of so-called immigration consultants or specialists. The states of California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and New York have immigration consultant statutes on the books, and now Utah joins them in enacting its own comprehensive chapter of immigration consultant laws.

Signed:  March 23, 2012

Effective:  July 01, 2012

Chapter: 375

Affects:

Adds a new chapter to Title 13 of the Utah Code Annotated

Changes:
  1. Defines an immigration consultant as a person who provides nonlegal assistance or advice on immigration matters.
  2. Requires an immigration consultant to register with the Utah Department of Commerce if the immigration consultant offers nonlegal immigration services for a fee.
  3. Provides registration requirements for immigration consultants, including completing of an application, submitting an application fee and passing a background check.
  4. Requires an immigration consultant to post a $50,000 bond, excepts certain individuals from the bond requirement and provides rules for the administration of bonds.
  5. Authorizes an immigration consultant to only offer nonlegal assistance in an immigration matter as defined under UCA 13-49-102(5).
  6. Requires immigration consultants to provide a written contract to all clients and provides specifications for the written contract.
  7. Allows a client to rescind an immigration consultant contract for services within 72 hours of execution of the contract.
  8. Requires immigration consultants to provide a signed receipt for each payment made by a client for immigration services and provides specifications for the receipt.
  9. Requires immigration consultants to post a notice or sign that is at least 12 by 20 inches with boldface type at least 1 inch in height and width containing certain prescribed information.
  10. Requires immigration consultants to provide a written disclosure in the native language of each client containing certain prescribed information.
  11. Requires certain nonattorney immigration consultants who advertise services in print or broadcast media to post a conspicuous statement in the advertisement that the immigration consultant is not an attorney. The law also exempts certain immigration consultants from compliance with this law.
  12. Provides rules for the handling of original documents completed for a client by the immigration consultant.
  13. Prohibits an immigration consultant from literally translating from English into another language, words or titles, including, “Notary Public,” “Notary,” “licensed,” “attorney,” “lawyer,” or any other terms that imply that the person is an attorney, with the intent to mislead, in any document, including an advertisement, stationery, letterhead, business card, or other comparable written material describing the immigration consultant.
  14. Clarifies that the following are unlawful acts: (1) making a false or misleading statement to a client; (2) making a guarantee or promise to a client, unless the guarantee or promise is in writing and the immigration consultant has some basis in fact for making the guarantee or promise; (3) making a statement that the immigration consultant can or will obtain a special favor from or has special influence with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or any other governmental agency, employee, or official, that may have a bearing on a client’s immigration matter; or (4) charging a client a fee for referral of the client to another person for services that the immigration consultant cannot or will not provide to the client.
  15. Provides for penalties for violations of the chapter on immigration consultants.
  16. Authorizes the attorney general or any district or county attorney to bring an action for: (1) temporary or permanent injunction or other relief in any court of competent jurisdiction against any person who violates the immigration consultant statutes; (2) the collection of penalties authorized by the immigration consultant statutes; and (3) an intentional violation of any provision in the immigration consultant statutes.
  17. Provides that a court may order restitution to be paid to any person suffering loss because of a violation of the immigration consultant statutes.
  18. Allows any person to file a private cause of action seeking damages in the amount of the greater of $500 or twice the amount of the pecuniary loss, and recovery of legal costs if he or she is harmed by an immigration consultant.
Analysis:

As the immigrant population swells across the country, in recent years certain states have enacted statutes regulating the activities of so-called immigration consultants or specialists. Immigration consultants are nonattorneys who have been known to prey upon and exploit unknowing immigrants who seek to change their immigration status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Unscrupulous immigration consultants have charged exorbitant fees, made false promises about the results the consultant could deliver to clients and misrepresented their services in promotional materials and advertising. Victims harmed by immigration consultants often are not willing to come forward to report the abuses for fear that the authorities will deport them back to their homelands. As a result, the states of California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and New York have enacted comprehensive immigration consultant statutes and administrative rules, and now Utah joins them in enacting its own immigration consultant laws. In order to charge a fee for immigration consultants, a person must register with the Department of Commerce, undergo a background screening and post a $50,000 surety bond. The new statutes define the services nonattorney immigration consultants may perform, regulate advertising for services, and prescribe rules for the posting of signs, delivery of written notices and execution of contracts. The statute defines prohibited acts, including a prohibition against literally translating the term “Notary” or “Notary Public.” Finally, the statute provides for criminal and civil penalties against persons who violate the immigration statutes, and remedies for persons harmed by immigration consultants.

Read the bill text.

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