Notorious Notarios

Filed in Immigration by on February 12, 2012

Notary Public Stamping a DocumentOne of the cultural and legal differences that exists between the United States and Latin American is the infamous notario.  In many Latin American countries, notarios are required to take special exams, and often they are required to be attorneys prior to becoming a notario.  Many Latin Americans then come to the United States believing that a “notario” here in the United States is equivalent.  Thus, many Latin Americans trust people in the United States that put themselves out as notarios as somehow being trustworthy to handle their immigration filings.  And, unfortunately, Latin Americans often mistake Notary Publics for notarios.


Notarios are not Attorneys in the United States!

Before I continue, I want to note that a Notary Public does not need to be an attorney in the United States.  Virtually anyone can become a Notary Public.  It basically consists of an application, an oath, and the payment of a fee.  Notary Publics are not required to have even the slightest knowledge of law or immigration.  And they usually don’t.  They are not qualified or authorized to practice law.  They are violating the law most of the time by giving legal advice.

If you have questions about whether an immigration application is proper for your situation and want to ask an immigration attorney about it, contact Law Offices of Jacob D. Geller at 781-462-1346.

It is astounding the amount of clients that enter my practice and tell me that they filed an application to get immigration benefits at some point, but they’re not sure what they filed, or why they filed it.  But they just got a letter denying it, and they’re not sure why.  When I ask who filed it, the answer is almost always “a notario”.

Notarios often don’t know the law

Notarios are notorious among immigration attorneys for two things: low, low fees and big, big mistakes.  They often pray upon vulnerable foreigners who have little money and promise them some type of visa or even a green card if they just fill out some forms.  Most of the people are ineligible for whatever application they are completing and the money is just wasted.  The worse situation is when they are actually eligible for status but the paperwork is done incorrectly which leads to ineligibility in the future.  This often happens with people eligible for Temporary Protected Status (if you think you are eligible for Temporary Protected Status or TPS, I highly suggest you speak to an attorney or find a legal aid clinic to help you), and by the time they discover the errors made by the notario, the eligibility for the status as well as the notario have disappeared.

Consider that the bargain you thought you were getting when you hired the inexpensive “notario” can quickly become many times more expensive when you require an attorney to try to fix your immigration problems.  If you are lucky, the application the notario had you file will be harmless and the only thing you will lose is your money.  If you are unlucky, you can end up detained by immigration and deported.  If you are very unlucky, you lose a lot more money trying to fight the deportation before finally being deported.  Very few notarios are actually a bargain in the end.

Before you or a loved one uses a notario to attempt to get immigration benefits, think about the consequences of using someone who may or may not know what they are doing.  The low cost of the notario may have a high cost on you and your family’s life in the future.

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About the Author ()

Jacob Geller is the principle attorney at the Law Offices of Jacob D. Geller, a general practice firm specializing in immigration. Attorney Geller speaks English and Spanish. He lived in Ecuador for two years and spent two months living and working in Buenos Aires and brings a unique understanding of Latin American culture to his practice of law.

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