COVID-19 Information Update
All hearings in Baltimore City Immigration Court for non-detained immigrants have been temporarily put on hold through May 29, 2020, due to the COVID emergency. This means no hearing for non-detained individuals until June 1, 2020. For more information, see the Maryland Access to Justice Commission's website.
Topics on this page
- Notario definition
- Immigration Consultant
- How to prevent notario fraud?
- Have you been a victim of notario fraud?
- Other Common Scams
In Spanish, the term “notario” refers to someone who can provide certain limited legal services.
In English, the term “notary” refers to someone who can officially witness and authenticate signatures on documents.
In the United States, a “notario”, “notario público”, or immigration consultant is Not an attorney nor an accredited representative by the Department of Justice and consequently, is Not authorized to provide paid immigration legal advice or legal services.
An “immigration consultant” means a person that provides nonlegal advice, guidance, information, or services to a client on an immigration matter for a fee.
An immigration consultant may NOT:
- Provide any legal advice or legal services;
- Make misrepresentations or false statements to influence, persuade, or encourage a client to use their services;
- Make statements that he or she can or will obtain special favors from or has special influence with the government;
- Collect any fees or other compensation for services not yet performed;
- Refuse to return documents supplied by, prepared by, or paid for by a client, at the client's request; or
- Represent, advertise, or communicate in any manner that he or she possesses titles or credentials that would qualify him or her to provide legal advice or legal services.
An immigration consultant must clearly state in a visible location at each place of business where he or she provides services, a sign that states “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in Maryland, and may not provide legal forms, provide legal advice, or provide legal services”.
- Make sure that the person you hired is licensed to practice law in the U.S.
- Beware of anyone who asks you to pay before applying for services or filling out applications.
- Make sure you understand what must be done in your case, and why, before you proceed.
- Get a copy of all applications in your case.
- Look for help if your representative threatens to harm you or your immigration case.
- Get a second opinion if you’re not sure about the advice you’ve been given.
- 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’s left blank.
- Never leave behind your original documents.
- Never trust a representative who says they have a special connection in the government, because the government does NOT accept bribes or do favors.
- Never trust anyone who says that they can “guarantee” to win your case.
Unscrupulous notarios or consultants routinely prey on immigrants who, because of linguistic, cultural, and financial obstacles, believe a notario or consultant can assist them with their legal issues. The fraudulent work of notarios or immigration consultants can have life-devastating consequences on its victims, including financial ruin, damage to a legal case, deportation, and permanent family separation.
If you have been a victim of notario fraud you may be able to recover any fees paid to the immigration consultant, reasonable attorney fees, and damages up to three times the amount you paid to the immigration consultant. Fraudulent immigration consultants may also be subject to additional penalties and imprisonment.
I you think you are or have been a victim of notario fraud, contact Ayuda’s Project END or the Maryland Office of the Attorney General:
- Ayuda’s Project END, 202-552-3619
- Maryland Office of the Attorney General, 410-528-8662, 1-888-743-0023
Other common scams affecting immigrants of all nationalities and languages include:
- Impersonators of federal government or immigration employees,
- Individuals who pretend to be licensed attorneys or so called “immigration consultants”
Fraudsters target immigrants to exploit their desire to adjust their immigration status. Read the Law: Md. Code, Commercial Law, §§ 14-3301 to 14-33306