Immigration & Naturalization Law
If you are planning to move to the United States, or change your immigration status, it is important to know who to turn to for legal help. There may be a big difference between who can provide legal services in another country and who can prepare legal documents in the U.S.
Getting advice from an immigration notario here in the U.S. may be a bad idea. In the U.S., a notary has limited abilities. A notary may only be able to help you sign documents, but they cannot provide any legal advice. The only individuals in the U.S. licensed and qualified to offer legal representation are licensed attorneys.
Notaries in the U.S. often refer to themselves as "immigration consultants." Other deceptive terms include:
Notarios and immigration consultants may make false promises and provide false information about the services they can provide. Generally, a notary or notary public does not have the qualifications to give you legal advice on U.S. immigration law. In some cases, a notary can cause permanent damage to your case and your immigration options.
In many Hispanic countries, the term notario is for people who must be lawyers. However, in the United States, you do not have to be a lawyer to be a notary. A notary is simply someone who has the authority to act as a witness in signing documents and similar notary services. To become a notary, you may only have to take a three- to six-hour class and pay a fee. Some states don't even require notary training.
Some notaries in the United States take advantage of the difference between a notary and a lawyer to make immigrants believe that they can practice law. They may try to represent you in your immigration matters. As these people tend to charge less than an attorney, many people are tempted to hire their services. However, there are major problems with relying on the advice of someone who is not trained or licensed to provide immigration legal advice.
If the notary or immigration consultant does not have sufficient knowledge of U.S. immigration law or the practice of law in your state, they can file documents incorrectly and permanently damage your case. Even if they intend to help you, they can do the wrong thing by accident.
There have also been cases where notaries accept the client's money and do nothing for their case. In the end, trying to save money may be more expensive if an attorney has to fix problems. Some clients only find out their notary deceived them when they get taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
There are important deadlines in immigration cases. Filing an application or a form even one day too late can mean a loss of your opportunities for legal status. Failing to properly fill out an immigration form or provide the necessary filing fees or supporting documents can also cause your claim to be rejected.
While the law allows people to handle their immigration cases themselves, immigration law can be complicated. There is also a lot at stake in an immigration case, including legal status, work authorization, and citizenship. When dealing with important legal immigration matters, you should seek legal assistance. There are two categories of legal professionals who can help you with your immigration case:
Once you have a licensed attorney or accredited representative to help you with your immigration case, follow these tips from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to avoid immigration scams:
Many immigration populations rely on references from friends or others in the community. However, just because someone else had success with a notario or the notario is from your community does not guarantee competent service. If you have a problem with a notary or notario, you may be on your own and have little recourse to correct the problems.
If you have questions about your immigration status, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. If you've been the victim of immigration fraud, you can find information from the American Bar Association's resources for notary fraud victims.