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Utah Proposes Regulating Immigration Consultants

Amid the Federal government’s nationwide campaign to combat immigration service fraud, the Utah Legislature is considering a bill that would regulate nonattorneys who offer immigration services, and prohibit them from using misleading foreign-language titles such as “Notario Publico” to promote their services.

Senate Bill 144, sponsored by State Senator Luz Robles, would require nonattorney immigration consultants to register with the state, submit a fingerprint, undergo a criminal background check, post a $50,000 surety bond, and would prohibit using translations of the title “Notary” or “Notary Public.” It would also create a complaint process for people who have been defrauded.

Utah — like many states with large immigrant communities — faces a growing problem of predators who defraud foreign nationals looking for help with their immigration papers. Some who provide these services are Notaries Public, whose strict ministerial duties in the U.S. are often confused by people from Latin American countries, where Notarios Publicos are similar to highly trained attorneys.

In recent months several other states, including Maryland, Illinois, New York and New Jersey, have taken aggressive steps to crack down on immigration scams and the unauthorized practice of law, in tandem with the federal government’s national efforts to protect consumers.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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