Connecticut Immigration Attorney James A. Welcome discusses the bad advice some non-experts give to immigration clients and why it is harmful to immigration cases.
This past April, two men and their team were sentenced to federal prison for operating a document mill in Baltimore that sold thousands of fake identification documents, including green cards and social security cards. The men were Mexican nationals residing in Maryland illegally and are facing several years in prison, years of supervised released, and deportation after sentencing.
This is an extreme example of the dangers and fraud that exist regarding documents. The consequences for this type of fraud are severe, so it is important to stay away from these dangerous and risky situations. Sometimes, people receive bad advice from non-attorneys or get fake immigration documents to gain residency and do not realize how threatening it can be to their status. Other times, people are misled into believing that they are being helped by an immigration expert, only to find out later that this person was not who they claimed to be.
A notary public is an example of a non-attorney who sometimes assists people with immigration documents. In the US, notaries are different from Notarios Publicos in Latin American countries, who are officials with much more legal skills and training, almost like a lawyer. Although notaries receive specific legal training and are authorized to certify certain documents, they are not immigration experts and are forbidden from giving legal advice. Some falsely advertised notaries or non-attorneys gain large fees for their services and then give incorrect advice. When it comes to immigration, a notary’s public main role is to notarize signatures for immigration documents that require notarization and take Oaths when needed. They cannot prepare or file legal documents or answer questions about them. They also do not have to understand the document and are not allowed to explain documents to clients.
The difference between a notary public and an attorney is crucial, but can be confusing and misleading for people who believe they are being assisted by an expert. It could also lead to an incomplete case if information is missed by either the client or the notary. This harms a person’s chance of gaining legal residency because, in some cases, once an application is denied, the decision cannot be appealed. Other times, a person can be charged with filing a fraudulent Immigration Application due to mistakes made on an application by a non-lawyer. It is extremely important when approaching immigration cases to receive the most valid and reliable information possible.
A new bill, HB 6443, is being discussed by Connecticut legislators in response to notario fraud. If the bill becomes law, legal service providers would have to give clients a copy of their contract and three days for a client to cancel. Upon cancellation, providers would have to give clients a full refund within fifteen days. The bill will also restrict advertising for immigration services by banning offers of guaranteed results, access to “special programs”, and/or influence over government officials or agencies, and by prohibiting non-attorneys from advertising themselves as “Notario Publico”.
If you need legal advice concerning your immigration case or documents, make sure you hire an experienced Immigration Attorney. Only an attorney or a Department of Justice-approved accredited representative may prepare or file another person’s immigration forms. Matters as important as immigration should only be dealt with by legal experts whom you can trust.
We are here to answer any questions you have and give legal advice concerning this and other legal immigration concerns.