I recently read an article and then made a few calls to my aunts and uncles to verify what exactly is a “Notario” in their homeland. Moreover, I read the following from the USCIS site in regards to common scams.
“If you need legal advice on immigration matters, make sure that the person you rely on is authorized to give you legal advice. Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Board of Immigration Appeals-recognized organization can give you legal advice.
The Internet, newspapers, radio, community bulletin boards and storefronts are filled with advertisements offering immigration help. Not all of this information is from attorneys and accredited representatives. There is a lot of information that comes from organizations and individuals who are not authorized to give you legal advice, such as “notarios” and other unauthorized representatives. The wrong help can hurt. Here is some important information that can help you avoid common immigration scams.”
“In many Latin American countries, the term “notario publico” (for “notary public”) stands for something very different than what it means in the United States. In many Spanish-speaking nations, “notarios” are powerful attorneys with special legal credentials. In the U.S., however, notary publics are people appointed by state governments to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. "Notarios publico,” are not authorized to provide you with any legal services related to immigration.”
Today in the Hispanic community a "Notario" or "immigration consultant, may incite mistrust in the immigrant communities. Countless of immigrants have undergone problems resulting from Notario "assistance" in their legal issues.
When it comes to the Dream Act it would seem that everyone would hire an immigration attorney or a recognized organization to help process his or her application; however, this is not always the case. (Please note, not everyone will need assistance when it comes to filing legal forms. For instance, not everyone needs a divorce attorney, many individuals do just fine representing themselves via the self-help department in their local courts.)
All over the country there are “over night” businesses springing up claiming to be immigration form preparers. In some cases, these businesses call themselves immigration consultants or Notario Publicos. Some even spring from income tax agencies, travel agents and translation agencies.
Here are some things to remember when consulting with anyone…
1. Only a licensed attorney can give you legal advise.
2. No one has a special connection to the immigration department, even attorneys.
3. Yes, anyone can help you complete the forms.
4. The forms are free, but it will cost you $465.00 to file the form (I-821D).
5. There is no set fee for assisting you in submitting the application. The fees will vary from law firm to law firm, from preparer to preparer…etc.
6. Only licensed attorneys are subject to discipline by the State Bar
7. Suspicious form preparation may cause difficulties.
Do your homework before you hire anyone. Do not pay anyone to see if you qualify. Look for free consultations; a knowledgeable person should be able to ask you the basic form questions to see if you meet the requirements. Do not allow anyone to promise you something they cannot deliver.