Individuals seeking to immigrant to the United States must satisfy a significant number of both substantive and procedural hurdles to achieve their immigration goals. The U.S. immigration process can be complex, intimidating, and quite different from the immigrant’s expectations. Thus, it is not surprising that while immigrants embrace the United States with open arms, they may seek first help from individuals sharing a similar cultural background or who have gone through similar experiences. Sharing a common bond with another person can lead you to trust them to act in your best interest. Unfortunately for intending immigrants, this individual may not always be fully qualified to assist you and they may complicate, delay, or irreparably harm or foreclose your immigration goals. Unfortunately, mistakes or fraud by notaries and other unlicensed consultants is far from the only form of immigration fraud immigrants must remain vigilant against.

Understanding the “Notario” and Why Immigration Consultants May Not Provide Legal Advice

For many immigrants, money and resources can be tight as they work to establish themselves in a new home. So, when a fellow member of the immigrant community mentions a way to save money on filing fees while working with someone in the community, such an offer can be extremely appealing. However this offer is mostly appealing due to some lack of clarity and confusion when translating from English to Spanish. That is, in many Spanish speaking countries, the words “notario public” refers to a senior attorney with quasi-governmental powers. In these cultures, these senior attorneys are elevated to a high status and are respected and deferred to on most legal matters. However, in the United States a “notario”, or notary, does not have the same powers, social standing, or experience that a senior attorney would have. In fact, a notary public is not an attorney at all and is not authorized to provide legal advice, including immigration advice.  In fact, “notarios” are barred by both federal and state statutes from providing legal advice despite the fact that many fail to follow the law in this regard.  The similarities in the terms combined with the cultural respect and deference afforded to such individuals in some cultures can lead immigrants to drop their guard. notario scam empties wallet Notarios often present immigration matters as merely administrative matters that are simply a matter of course. They often simply direct people to go through the motions of filing out forms without engaging in a substantive analysis of the underlying immigration situation. In some situations, the immigrant may receive numerous promises from the notario in exchange for payment for immigration advice, but when it comes time to assess one’s filings it may turn out that nothing was filed and the immigrant has overstayed a visa or otherwise harmed their likelihood of receiving a green card or achieving citizenship.

Jurisdictions Have Taken Action to Combat Notario Fraud

Notario fraud is a problem affecting immigrant communities across the nation. Often after major immigration news or immigration reform, notarios will begin to market aggressively. In many states, officials believe that the problem is grossly underreported because people may be hesitant to contact what they perceive as law enforcement agencies when their immigration status may be unclear due to fraud.  USCIS and state agencies across the nation have already taken steps to address this issue. USCIS has published a number of web pages and resources intended to help immigrants avoid common scams and find the right person to provide professional, authorized immigration guidance. The USCIS page explains the notario scam including the fact that these individuals are not authorized to provide legal advice. USCIS also publishes a list of state agencies individuals can contact to report suspected immigration fraud. Furthermore, the FTC has produced a ‘fotonovela’ titled Cómo se enteraron Myriam y Pedro de las Estafas de Notario that describes the warning signs of a notario scam. Also at the national level, the American Bar Associate provides a guide detailing How and Where to File Complaints Against Notarios & Immigration Consultants. California has long handled the problems created by notarios engaging in the unauthorized practice of law including the infamous 1990s notario, Delsio Ramero. Ramero would target immigrants in multiple states while working from California with recruiters.  This notario would bilk immigrants of their savings while file inappropriate petitions. Ramero would then disappear with client’s money prior to the commencement of deportation proceedings  against clients. In light of such events, California publishes a number of Spanish-language guides to help immigrants avoid this scam. Oregon has also taken a number of steps to combat this problem. It has also crafted pages in Spanish to warn immigrants of this problem. Additionally, the state has set up a toll-free consumer hotline to provide immigrants information and advice regarding immigration scams.

Concerned about Improper Handling of your Immigration Application in Orlando?

Immigrants who have worked with a notario or another individual who may not be a licensed attorney are often understandably upset and worried about their immigration status. Working with an experienced attorney, such as the immigration lawyers of Colombo & Hurd, can provide insight into your legal situation and potential options to move forward. Understanding the situation you face is the first step towards reducing anxiety and correcting your immigration situation. To schedule a confidential legal consultation with an EB-5 visa attorney of Colombo and Hurd, call 407-478-1111 or contact us online.