Now more than ever, it is imperative that the person you are entrusting to handle your family or business immigration matters is a licensed professional.
In Latin America and some European countries, becoming a notary public is a difficult endeavor and one needs to meet very strict requirements. For example, in Mexico, a notary public is an individual who has received an equivalent of a law license; has previously clerked or interned in a notary’s office and has passed a highly competitive test.
In the United States, however, a notary public is authorized only to provide impartial witness to the signing of official documents to prevent fraudulent acts. In order to become a notary public, one does not need to be an attorney. In fact, many states do not even require a high school diploma. Public notaries are not authorized to provide legal advice in immigration matters or any other legal matters. Only licensed attorneys or accredited representatives are permitted to practice immigration law.
Licensed attorneys are individuals who possess a license and a bar number to practice law in a specific state. An accredited representative is a person who is approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals (the BIA) to represent aliens before the Immigration Courts, the BIA and USCIS. He or she must work for a specific nonprofit, religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization
Even though public notaries lack the credentials to give legal advice and the unauthorized practice of law violates state and federal law, the term “notary public” is particularly problematic. The literal translation of “notario publico” is “notary public.” As such, the term “notary public” creates a unique opportunity for deception and fraud which has caused the called “notario fraud”
What is “Notario Fraud”?
Notarios (notary public) operate throughout the U.S. They present themselves as individuals with the knowledge and expertise to handle immigration matters. Misleading and deceptive advertising is usually used to target vulnerable communities. Notarios usually offer more affordable services compared to the services offered by attorneys. Many notarios guarantee satisfactory results in a variety of matters such as green cards, work permits, and even asylums. However, the lack of communication, not knowing how to fill and file immigration forms, or straight-up scamming are among the many ways notarios endanger immigrants.
Who are the main affected by the “Notario Fraud”?
The Latino community is the main community affected. The similarity in the words “notario” and “notary public” combined with the language barriers make Latinos a very susceptible group.
Should I hire a notario to help me with my immigration case?
Absolutely not. Only attorneys and accredited representatives are permitted to practice immigration law. It is recommended that before paying someone to take on your case, you do some research about that person. For example, if the individual asserts to be a licensed attorney from California, you can visit this link to find out whether your attorney is in good standing with the state bar. It is important to keep in mind that each state has its own website. Similarly, If the person states to be an accredited representative, you can visit this link to confirm that information.
Risks of hiring a Notario to handle my immigration case
Hiring a notario to handle your immigration case can have devastating consequences. Unethical notarios often ask for large sums of money for help that they never provide. Many times, victims permanently lose opportunities to pursue immigration relief because a notario has irreparably damaged their case. As a result, the consequences include financial loss, loss of immigration benefits, permanent family separation, and even deportation. We have consulted with countless families on behalf of relatives stuck overseas because they listened to the advice that a notario gave.
How to prevent notario fraud?
Before you hire someone, keep in mind:
- Make sure you that the person you hired is either a licensed attorney or an accredited representative. Visit the links above to find out more about it.
- Only provide copies of your documents.
- Obtain a written contract.
- Ask for evidence showing that your applications have been submitted
- Report suspicious notario activity.
- Never hire a notario
- Do not recommend notarios to your relatives or friends.
- Get a second opinion if you are not sure about the advice you have been given
What to do if you think you may have been a victim of notario fraud?
If you or someone you know have been a victim of notario fraud, we may be able to help you. Wilner & O’Reilly offers free consultations at each office in Orange, Fresno, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bruno, California, as well as Orem and Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho. Though state-issued guidelines prevent us from meeting with clients in person, we remain available for consultations via telecom. Call our office to schedule an appointment today!
JUANA TORRES JUNG – ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY
Juana Torres Jung is an associate attorney at Wilner & O’Reilly’s Sacramento office. She is admitted to the bars of California and her native Colombia. She received her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Medellin graduating in the top 5% of her class. She obtained her Masters of Laws from the University of California, Berkeley. She also holds a certificate of specialization in business law from the University of California, Berkeley. While studying law at the University of Medellin, Ms. Jung interned for the Office of the General Prosecutor of Colombia representing victims of crimes in criminal proceedings. During her time at Berkeley, Ms. Jung engaged in pro-bono work with the Berkeley Immigration Group. She also earned the Best Legal Research and Writing Memorandum Award for her outstanding research and writing skills.
RICHARD WILNER – FOUNDING PARTNER
Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O’Reilly, APLC, and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.Mr. Wilner has received the coveted Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, the highest legal and ethical rating that one can receive from one’s peers in the legal community. Similarly, he has been awarded the title of Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present. He is best known for his work in advising Fortune 500 companies, middle and small market businesses, entrepreneurs, and foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, and sciences in the complex area of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law.