Notario fraud has been a problem for decades. This type of fraud occurs when individuals represent themselves as legal professionals, but are not actually admitted to practice law in a jurisdiction in the United States. In Florida, as with other states, it is a felony for a non-attorney to practice law without license. Individuals of Hispanic descent are particularly susceptible to notario fraud due to language issues surrounding the use of the terms “notaria”, “escribano” or “notario public.” It is actually illegal in Florida to utilize these terms due to the confusion they create. Unlike many Spanish speaking countries, where notaries serve specific legal functions and may receive legal training, notaries in the U.S. receive no such training and are authorized to perform very limited functions. They are not attorneys and may not represent individuals in immigration or other legal proceedings. Sadly, immigrants are common victims of notario fraud often perpetrated by their fellow countrymen.
What Is Notario Fraud?
“Notarios” and “immigration consultants” are individuals who do not have law degrees, yet offer their services to immigrants in need of legal advice and representation. They rely on false advertising and fraudulent contracts to gain clients then leave those clients in the lurch. Sometimes, notaries charge fees but never perform the service. In other cases, they miss deadlines, file forms incorrectly, or damage their clients’ case in some other manner.
Victims of notario fraud can lose their chance to pursue immigration relief because of the notario’s actions. By then, of course, the notario is long gone and the immigrant is left in a worse situation than when the whole process began. Notario fraud often goes undetected until the immigrant realizes the damage that has been done and consults an immigration attorney for help. By then they could be in a dire situation and be out the hundreds or thousands of dollars that they paid to the notario.
A Language Gap
Part of the problem can be attributed to a language gap. “Notario publico” translates to notary public. Here in the United States being a notary public only gives the person the authority to witness signatures. However, in other countries, particularly Latin America and Europe, the term means something very different. In those countries a “notario publico” is someone who has the equivalent of a law license and can legally represent others before the government.
Immigrants, used to the laws of their own country, naturally gravitate towards what they know and they know a “notario publico” can help them with legal matters. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous individuals take advantage of this and swindle immigrants.
Always Consult An Immigration Attorney On Immigration Matters
The single best way to avoid immigration problems is to make sure the individual you are consulting is a qualified immigration attorney who is licensed to practice immigration law in the United States.