So you go to college and law school, pass the bar and eventually hang a shingle. What do you do when you find out the notary down the street thinks he can practice law too. Most commonly you see this problem in the practice of immigration law.
Recently, I have heard stories of pseudo lawyers branching out to other areas including divorce. As most people know, a notary serves as an impartial witness in taking acknowledgments, administering oaths affirmations and performing other acts authorized by state law. A notary is not an attorney and is not licensed to practice law, may not give legal advice, draft legal documents nor accept fees for legal advice. So why is there a problem?
The problem is that in many countries a notario is a licensed lawyer. In Poland, for example, the notariusz is an accredited attorney. Many non-lawyers refer to themselves as notarios to prey on immigrants with limited English skills and little understanding of the American legal system. Many illegally practice immigration law without a license. They are able to take advantage of the fact that the English term notary, the Spanish term notario or the Polish term notariusz are similar in spelling, but very different in meaning. Many work out of travel agencies. That always surprised me. Why would you go to a travel agent to do your immigration papers. I wouldn't go to my attorney to book a cruise.
Notaries cannot give legal advice about immigration status, getting a work permit, getting family to the United States, or getting the right to stay in the United States. They cannot tell you what forms to use or what answers to put on the forms. Also, some notarios falsely claim that they have a close and special relationship with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and can obtain special immigration favors for their clients or know of secret immigration laws. Notarios often charge excessive fees for their services and mishandle or even lose important immigration documents. Many charge hundreds or thousands of dollars merely to process immigration applications. In many cases, these scam artists charge high fees for filing unnecessary documents, perform poor quality services that jeopardize clients’ cases, and then disappear after receiving payment for their “services.” Their fraudulent practices put immigrants at risk because they lack real knowledge of immigration law. They charge fees to prepare applications for nonexistent immigration programs, or for existing programs for which the client does not qualify.
If you feel you have been cheated by a notary, contact a lawyer, the bar or even the state attorneys office.