Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

More States Enact Anti-‘Notario’ Laws To Protect Immigrants

States continue to enact laws that protect immigrants from con artists advertising themselves as Notarios Publicos.

Updated 1-4-16. Lawmakers across the country have been continuing their efforts to fight con artists — often operating as notarios publicos — who charge immigrants large sums of money for fraudulent or ineffective legal assistance. The most recent measures came in Montana and Nevada.

Because Notaries in many other countries are highly trained legal professionals similar to attorneys who provide legal advice and assistance, immigrants often mistakenly believe U.S. Notaries can help them with immigration issues. Dishonest individuals take advantage of this misunderstanding by advertising using the title notario or notario publico to defraud immigrants.

Montana
 

Senate Bill 306, which took effect in October 2015, prohibits Notaries from using the term notario or notario publico in advertising unless the Notary is an attorney licensed to practice law in Montana. The law also requires nonattorney Notaries to post a notice stating that the Notary is not an attorney and cannot draft legal records, give advice on legal or immigration matters, or charge a fee for those activities.

Nevada
 

Senate Bill 401, signed into law in June 2015, prohibits Notaries from using the Spanish title “licenciado” or any other equivalent non-English term in advertising that could misrepresent the services the Notary offers. The new law also prohibits registered document preparation service providers from advertising using the terms notario or notario publico or “licenciado” in advertising, and allows people aware of Notary or document preparation law violations to file a complaint with the Secretary of State.

Assembly Bill 65, which took effect July 2015, revises several laws related to Notaries and documentation preparation services, and the filing of documents with the Secretary of State's office. The law extends the prohibition against advertising using the term notario or notario publico by nonattorney Notaries to include employers of Notaries, and requires the imposition of a civil penalty for a Notary’s employer who violates the prohibition. Immigrants are often targeted by con artists who charge thousands of dollars for fraudulent immigration services using the Spanish title ‘Notario’ or other translations of the title ‘Notary Public.’ New Jersey and New York are the latest states to sign ‘Notario’ laws protecting immigrants from dishonest and fraudulent legal assistance services.

Original story text follows:

Immigrants are often targeted by con artists who charge thousands of dollars for fraudulent immigration services using the Spanish title ‘Notario’ or other translations of the title ‘Notary Public.’ New Jersey and New York are the latest states to sign laws this year protecting immigrants from dishonest and fraudulent legal assistance services. 

New Jersey
 

Assembly Bill 1423, which took effect December 8, 2014, updates state laws to clarify that anyone, including nonattorney immigration consultants, who knowingly engages in the unauthorized practice of law is guilty of a crime in the third degree. In addition, nonattorneys who imply in their advertisements that they are attorneys also are guilty of a crime in the third degree.

The law also requires application forms for Notary commissions to include a notice informing applicants that:

  1. Nonattorney Notaries may not use titles or advertising implying the Notary is an attorney-at-law;
  2. Nonattorney Notaries must post a disclaimer in advertising stating the Notary is not an attorney and may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice about immigration or any other legal matters.

The same notice and disclaimer must be given to a Notary upon taking the oath of office at the county clerk’s office and printed in the state’s Notary Public Manual.

New York
 

Assembly Bill 8974, which took effect February 6, 2015, amends, clarifies and adds regulations for immigration assistance service providers. It prohibits providers from advertising using the terms “notario publico,” “notario” or “immigration specialist” to cause a customer to believe the provider possesses special professional skills or is authorized to provide advice on immigration matters, but allows a Notary licensed by the New York Department of State to use the term “Notary Public.”

Many states strictly regulate how Notaries may advertise in foreign languages in order to protect immigrants from dishonest persons falsely claiming to offer legal services using foreign-language variants of the title “Notary Public.” Some states also impose additional restrictions on nonattorney immigration consultants, such as requiring registering with the state and posting a bond. Notaries must always follow all state laws regarding advertising and regulation of persons offering immigration assistance services.

The NNA publishes a complimentary ‘What Is A Notary Public?’ brochure which Notaries may download, print and share with signers to help answer questions about the differences between U.S. Notaries and the ‘Notarios of other countries.

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

Additional Resources

Important Differences Between Notaries and ‘Notarios’

Avoid Unauthorized Practice of Law

‘What Is A Notary Public?’ brochure (PDF)

Related Articles:

2014 State Laws, Rules Address ‘Notario’ Abuse

Anti-'Notario' Efforts Expanding To Different Nationalities

States Cracking Down On Notary Advertising, Requiring Non-Attorney Disclaimers

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.