Avoid Notario Fraud in Your Immigration Process

New Jersey immigration attorneys


Resolving your immigration status is a delicate situation that can change your life, and the life of your family, for better or for worse. And sadly, being the victim of notario fraud can have devastating consequences to your case. 

In today’s article, I will discuss notario fraud in New Jersey, what it is, and what you can do to avoid it. 


What is Notario Fraud?

Most immigrants are eager to achieve legal status, obtain their green card, not worry about being deported, facing ICE, or anything like that. To do this, they embrace a journey that can be very complicated if they do it alone.

I’m sure you’ve heard tons of horror stories of people being scammed or taken advantage of; this is mainly because immigrants are usually in a vulnerable position, and there are tons of people who prey on this, posing as attorneys to deceive and take your money. That is not only deceitful; it is illegal. There are laws against the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law, more commonly referred to as “notario fraud.”

Notario is the Spanish word for notary, and notario fraud, or immigration services fraud, occurs when non-lawyers represent themselves to clients as qualified to offer legal advice, representation, or services concerning immigration or other matters of law, despite having no such qualification.

In the U.S., a notary can officially witness and authenticate signatures on documents. However, in many countries of Latin America, notaries are required to have a law degree, are state-appointed, and carry out legal transactions. That’s why many immigrants assume that notaries in the U.S. have the legal authority to practice as attorneys and end up being taken advantage of by some non-lawyer notaries when they seek legal assistance from them.

In the U.S., many lawyers are also notaries, but a notary is not necessarily an attorney. And if someone is not an attorney or an accredited representative from the Department of Justice, they are not authorized to provide immigration advice or legal services. This is very important to notice. You may encounter someone well-intentioned, but isn’t a lawyer or an accredited representative. And even though that person has good intentions, they may not provide adequate representation. This could result in serious legal consequences such as arrest by immigration officials and possible deportation. 

That’s the basic meaning of notario fraud, but by now, you must be wondering, “How do I identify if someone is trying to take advantage of me? What does notario fraud look like? In places like New Jersey, which has a significant population of immigrants, it is essential to identify this type of fraud.


Common Examples of Notario Fraud in New Jersey

These are the forms notario fraud can present to you:

  • A non-lawyer representing themselves as an attorney or affiliated with an attorney who is an Accredited Representative with the Department of Justice.
  • A non-lawyer creating the appearance that they are affiliated with the federal government.
  • Immigration consultants that provide more than clerical assistance and give legal advice on immigration matters.

Some practices usually associated with notario fraud: 

  • Accepting payment and not performing services
  • Keeping a client’s original documents and charging a fee to give them back
  • Falsifying government forms
  • Applying for an immigration benefit that the client is not eligible for, which exposes the client to immigration fraud
  • Applying for immigration benefits with the wrong forms

Most common, intentional and unintentional, frauds: 

  • Filing boilerplate asylum applications
  • Producing and presenting fake documents
  • Filing fee waivers and keeping U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fees
  • Preparing applications for which an individual is not eligible, such as an I-485, application to register permanent residence or adjust status, or I-589, application for asylum, and withholding of removal
  • Submitting inaccurate or incomplete information to USCIS, such as the applicant’s date and manner of entry, the number of children, prior marriages and divorces, prior criminal history, or memberships.
  • Submitting poor translations and/or interpretations
  • Failing to appear in court with a client, forcing the client to represent him or herself

To prevent fraud, some New Jersey laws try to discourage Notarios from doing these actions. But, what can you do if you end up being the victim of this type of fraud? Our New Jersey immigration attorneys can help you solve your immigration legal problems and provide legal representation. Call our law firm today at (888) 695-6169 to schedule a consultation.


Dealing With Notario Fraud

File a Complaint

First of all, you can file a complaint with the Office of Attorney Ethics

If you suspect that a lawyer is involved in notario fraud, this branch of the New Jersey Supreme Court will take charge of doing the investigation about your complaint. You can also file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of Consumer Protection.

If you have experienced fraud, the main thing to do is seek legal assistance from a trustworthy, licensed attorney and check what legal path you can follow. They can analyze your particular immigration case and your civil remedies as well. At Andres Mejer Law, we have compassionate immigration law experts who can help you solve your immigration concerns. 


Motions to Reopen Due to Ineffective Assistance

Some of the most common actions taken when an immigrant falls victim of notario fraud are Motions to Reopen due to Ineffective Assistance. These can be used under two circumstances: 

  • In applications USCIS has denied; 
  • In removal proceedings where a judge has ordered an individual removed.

To reopen an adverse USCIS decision or removal proceedings, a client must be able to show that the individual has relied upon a representative, and this reliance has robbed the individual of the opportunity to qualify for relief that they would otherwise have been eligible for.

Examples of ineffective assistance of counsel include:

  • Filing untimely documents
  • Filing incorrect applications
  • Filing inadequate applications for asylum, Temporary Protected Status, or other forms of relief
  • They misinform the client of the time, date, or place of hearing, resulting in an absentia ruling.

You can be a victim of notario fraud and not be aware of it. However, immigration authorities  can blame you if some situations arise:

  • If you allow any information you know is not accurate to be placed on any application under your name, you could bear personal responsibility. 
  • A notario may have pressured you to include false information, maybe to receive a benefit that otherwise you wouldn’t be eligible to.

You must understand that by signing the form, you knowingly acknowledge the false information to be true. If you know the notario is providing false information on YOUR form, you can be held responsible for giving false information to the U.S. government, which is illegal.

If you fall into this, you could face criminal charges, heavy civil penalties, and loss of the privilege to file for additional immigration benefits in the future. Consult with a New Jersey immigration attorney right away to help you with your immigration problems


Ways to Avoid Notario Fraud

There are some steps and recommendations you can follow to prevent being the victim of notario fraud.


Hire a Licensed New Jersey Immigration Attorney

First of all, and the most important one: Make sure the person you hire is licensed to practice law in the U.S. and in the state you’re in. Always ask in what State they are licensed to practice law.

You can ask them for proof of good standing and call the office that licenses attorneys to ask whether the person is an attorney with a bar number and whether the attorney is in good standing. Be careful with providers that ask for money before applying for services or filling out applications. 

Always talk to your lawyer. Make sure to understand the process, what needs to be done in your case, and why. Ask for a written contract, a three-day right to cancel, and a receipt for monies paid, and always read everything before signing it. Also, make sure to receive a copy of all the applications in your case.

If you have doubts about anything, it’s good to get a second opinion. Call our New Jersey immigration law firm so we can answer any questions you may have regarding deportation, family immigration, and other immigration concerns.


Situations to Avoid

Then there are some situations you must avoid:

  • Never hire a notario, notary, or notary public to help you with your immigration case.
  • Never pay someone who will not give you a receipt.
  • Never sign anything that you don’t understand, or that is left blank.
  • Never leave behind your original documents.
  • And a huge alarm sign! Never trust anyone who says that they can guarantee to win your case

Every case is different; every situation is different. A good lawyer will study your particular situation and let you know what, if there is, is the best path for you to get legal status. No one can guarantee you they will win. Contact a trusted New Jersey immigration law firm today!


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