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Immigration Forms Specialist Tip: Avoid Advertising Missteps

Immigration-Stock-Resized.jpgGo to any online translation service and type in "Notary Public," and you’re likely to receive Notario Público as one of many language translations. It may seem like a simple way to reach potential customers, but beware. The words you choose when marketing yourself could easily turn into trouble, even when your intent is honest.

As the number of foreign-born residents in America has grown rapidly in the last several decades — from 4.7 percent of the population in 1970 to 13.4 percent in 2015 — so have the number of immigrants seeking help with their status. Many immigrants unfamiliar with Notary laws and the immigration process often fall prey to immigration services fraud. As a result, many states have enacted laws to regulate those offering the service, particularly how immigration assistance is advertised.

While the laws and rules vary from state to state, Notaries and others legitimately offering assistance as Immigration Forms Specialists (IFS) need to be aware of their state’s requirements.

For instance, California, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada and Utah’s statutes regulate the signs an immigration consultant (referred to as a an immigration assistance provider in Georgia and Illinois, and a document preparation service in Nevada) must post publicly, what they can and can’t say in a required signed contract, and possible penalties for violating the laws regulating these matters. New York has word-for-word requirements for foreign-language signage that must be posted.

In advertising as an Immigration Forms Specialist, what you do not say is as important as what you do say. If you say the wrong thing, you could find yourself facing violations brought by local or state authorities. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when advertising.

Know The Law

Follow the laws, rules and guidelines in your state.

  • Some states prohibit an immigration consultant or immigration services provider from advertising Notary services if they hold a Notary commission.
  • Some states explicitly prohibit Notaries from claiming powers and authority they do not possess, including the power to offer counsel on immigration matters.
  • Some states prohibit the use of terms like “immigration consultant” or "immigration specialist” or similar descriptions in advertising.
  • Some states prohibit using the simple words “Notary” and “immigration” or “immigration services” together in the same ads and signs and on storefronts. 

Be Very Clear

  • Make sure your advertising and marketing materials are clear in what you can and cannot do. 
  • Run all copy for ads and signs through an attorney in order to ensure you are complying with the law.
  • Don’t ever describe your service as a legal service, or imply that you practice law, offer legal advice or represent clients in immigration proceedings. Some states may interpret the words “immigration” and “immigration services” or similar words as implying a provider is offering a legal service.
  • Don’t be ambiguous in your advertising. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings when language is a barrier.
  • Don’t advertise using the Spanish terms “Notario” or “Notario Publico.”
  • Don’t literally translate, from English into another language, “Notary Public,” “Notary,” “licensed,” “attorney,” “lawyer,” or any other terms that imply that you are an attorney.
  • Don’t make verbal claims that you can provide legal advice or representation in an immigration proceeding when face-to-face with a client. Watching what you say to clients is just as important as how you advertise to them.

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4 Comments

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Bridgeline

28 Mar 2018

Nice post!

Robert Elliott

28 Mar 2018

Nice Post

jesus alanis

02 Apr 2018

As a Ca Notary Public, can I fill out as Immigration Forms Specialist at the secretary of the State?

National Notary Association

03 Apr 2018

Hello. Please see this article for information about California's rules regarding immigration professionals: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2016/10/notary-guide-california-rules-immigration-consultants

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