Beware of Notarios

by George Barron

If you think your “notario” is a lawyer, you are probably wrong – and that can make a big difference in your legal case.  There is a lot of confusion in Latino communities about “notarios” and lawyers. In some countries, including many in Latin America, “notarios” or “notarios publica” are required to be attorneys. That is not true in the United States. In the US, “notarios” are not lawyers. In the United States, a “notario” (called a notary or notary public) is able to take oaths and acknowledgements – but cannot represent people in court or anywhere else, cannot offer legal advice, and usually have very little training.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous “notarios”, some calling themselves “immigration consultants”, have used this misunderstanding to victimize immigrants. These “notarios” often promise green cards to those who are not eligible. This bad advice sometimes causes the client to fall into removal proceedings and permanently lose their rights to stay in the U.S.

The problem is so bad that some states, such as Texas, prohibit the translation of the English title “notary public” into Spanish. In Pennsylvania, it is unlawful for a non-attorney to call themselves “notario”. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Bar Association issued a formal opinion on this problem that stated in part:

Persons who are authorized to be “notaries public” shall not describe themselves in writing or orally as “notarios” or as a “notario publico”, particularly when any person to whom they are providing or seeking to provide services are persons from Spanish speaking countries. Such terminology is in direct violation of (Pennsylvania law).

There are big differences between immigration attorneys and “notarios” or “immigration consultants”. Lawyers are highly trained –at least four years of college, then three years of law school – and must pass a difficult examination before being licensed. Lawyers can represent you before the USCIS, and will sign your immigration forms with you. An lawyer can give you legal advice regarding your options, eligibility for immigration benefits, and potential risks.

Not everyone needs help with immigration matters. But, if you need help, make sure you are getting competent, professional help by contacting a real lawyer.

[si-contact-form form=’2′]

Previous post:

Next post: