Who is Vulnerable to Notario Fraud and What are Some Solutions
Christopher Stender is an immigration attorney with more than two decades of experience practicing immigration law. An active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), he served as the vice president of the organization’s Arizona chapter. Currently, Christopher Stender serves on the AILA Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. There, he develops strategies to combat the rising problem of so-called notarios, persons fraudulently claiming to be immigration attorneys.
Immigrants originating from Latin America are particularly vulnerable to notario fraud because in many Latin American countries, a notario has authority over a number of legal matters. In the United States, however, a notario is simply a notary public rather than a licensed and trained attorney. Notarios regularly defraud immigrants and noncitizens of thousands of dollars, promising documentation, work permits, and other immigration services that never materialize. Furthermore, using a ‘notario’ may result in a person permanently losing official documents and access to certain benefits. If they misfile their case as an asylum claim, they may trigger deportation proceedings.
Many states have taken actions to prevent notario fraud, requiring notaries to undergo background checks, place security bonds, and post disclaimers on their advertisements. Furthermore, notario fraud is a misdemeanor in many states and a felony in Arizona. And in Washington, D.C., payment for immigration services can only occur after the service has been rendered.