On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP on Friday, August 17, 2018.

By Christopher McNally

Sayer, Regan & Thayer, LLP

Immigration issues continue to generate front page headlines in our country. What is often missing from the sensational stories is the very human cost of our tangled and confusing immigration policy. The “walking on eggshells” nature of an immigrant’s every waking moment has led to some unsavory practices by those willing to take advantage of a tenuous situation.

One scam preying on people seeking immigration assistance that is growing is scope revolves around notary publics. People seeking immigration assistance should be wary of advisers who promise work permits, citizenship and release from immigration detention, yet who are not legally qualified to offer such assistance.

Part of the problem may lie in a language barrier, particularly in the use of the term notario publico among Spanish-speaking individuals. In many Latin American and European countries the title notary public refers to an individual who has received the equivalent of a law license and is authorized to represent others. Notary publics in the U.S. have a much more limited scope of duties.

In Mexico, for example, notaries have a broad range of duties. A notario publico can draft deeds for transfer of real property, issue judicial opinions, intervene in judicial proceedings, and ensure that documents do not include legal inconsistencies. 

Paying fees to an immigration consultant or notario who is not licensed to practice immigration law or authorized to give legal advice could cost the victim a significant amount of money, and can also jeopardize their ability to eventually obtain legal status.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA):

“Misrepresentations as to an individual’s qualification to offer legal advice can have severe implications for immigrants.  In many cases the work performed by such individuals results in missed deadlines, the filing of incorrect or incomplete forms, or the filing of false claims with the government. As a result of the advice or actions of such individuals an immigrant can miss opportunities to obtain legal residency, can be unnecessarily deported, or can be subject to civil and/or criminal liability for the filing of false claims. In addition, immigrants often spend hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in payment for what they believe are the services of a licensed attorney.”

If you are in a position of applying for legal immigration status, we strongly recommend taking these three steps to protect yourself and to help ensure the services and advice you receive are valid:

  • Consult with a licensed immigration lawyer, not a notary public
  • If someone claims to be a licensed attorney, confirm his or her status on the Rhode Island state bar website or contacting the bar association at (401) 421-5740
  • Obtain a copy of the consultant’s identification along with a written contract and payment receipts

Christopher McNally is an immigration attorney with Sayer, Regan & Thayer, LLP. He can be contacted at 866-378-5836 or via email at cmcnally@srt-law.com.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.