In the United States, a notary is a person who can witness the signature of documents. Unlike in many Latin American countries, a notary in the U.S. is NOT a lawyer, and cannot give legal advice, help fill out immigration forms, or represent people. Unfortunately, many immigrants fall victim to notarios, also called notarios publicos, believing they are qualified to provide immigration advice. Notarios will often take people’s money and never file any forms or file forms with false information. Here are some tips to protect yourself and your family from notario fraud:

  • Never hire a notario for any kind of immigration work. If you need immigration help, find a licensed attorney who specializes in immigration law.
  • Use common sense. If someone promises you something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Never sign an application that has false information.
  • If you decide to hire an immigration attorney, ask for a written contract that explains all fees and expenses. If the terms of the contract change, ask to see them in writing.
  • Ask the attorney for proof that your application has been filed. For example, request a copy of the USCIS receipt notice whenever an application is filed in your case.