When deciding if you would rather go to an experienced immigration attorney or a notario publico, think about if you would rather go to a doctor for your surgery or an unlicensed, untrained neighbor who dabbles in surgery? Every week at Antonini & Cohen, we meet with people who have used notario services to file immigration paperwork. The majority of these consultations are filled with regret that a person did not seek competent counsel sooner.
What is the difference between notarios in the US vs. US immigration attorneys?
|Notarios in the US||US Immigration Attorneys|
|No training||Several years of training required in order to be licensed|
|No license to practice law in good standing||Licensed to practice law & a member of a State Bar|
|Legally prohibited from dispensing legal advice||Authorized to give legal advice|
|Not responsible for errors in your case according to the terms of your contract||Required to take responsibility for case|
|Rampant fraud and little recourse||May be disciplined by the State Bar & the Courts in the event of malpractice|
|No malpractice insurance||Must carry malpractice insurance|
Why the confusion?
In many countries, a notario publico is a trained professional who is licensed to prepare government paperwork and provide advice. However, in the US, people may use the term ‘notario publico,’ but there is no comparable job here.
Instead, a notario publico may at best have a state-issued notary license, which costs $37.00 here in Dekalb County, Georgia and permits the notary to act as a witness to the signatures of documents and to administer oaths.
For more information on the duties of notaries in the US, visit this informational site: http://cdn.nationalnotary.org/what_is_notary/whatNotary.pdf
The notario publico seems to be honest and has experience – my friend even received his green card with the notario’s help. What is the problem?
The problem is that many people abuse that confusion in order to trick people into thinking that they are licensed to help with immigration paperwork. You may have a friend who went to a notario publico for help preparing their immigration application and everything worked out fine. However, every case is different and if your case has any complications, or you do not qualify for the application that the notario advises, you are putting your status in the US at risk, and you may be wasting your money. If an attorney messes up your case, you can seek recourse against the attorney. If a notario messes up your case, the immigration court will wonder why you let a random person from the street perform your surgery, and you may be out of luck.
What can I do about hiring legitimate counsel?
When you seek help from an attorney, make sure that person is licensed. An attorney will be able to produce their license and the State Bar Association will be able to verify that your attorney is a member in good standing. Even better, make sure your attorney is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). All of the attorneys at Antonini and Cohen are licensed to practice law and are members of AILA. Finally, if you have been the victim of a scam, you can report the fraud here: https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/report-scams
If you need additional assistance with your immigration case, contact the immigration law attorneys at Antonini & Cohen today. Call us at 404.850.9394 or complete a contact form here.