Connecticut Warns Immigrant Communities Beware Notario Fraud
HARTFORD, June 21 -- Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a directive granting temporary deportation relief and work permits to eligible undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and have not committed serious crimes. DHS has 60 days to implement the new policy, so applications for the program are not currently being accepted.
Such significant changes to immigration policy are typically followed by a spike in scammers trying to take advantage of persons who want to avail themselves of the new rules. Immigrant communities need to be wary of potential immigration services fraud.
“With the good news last week from President Obama, we also must issue appropriate warnings to protect the immigrant community from fraud,” Governor Dannel P. Malloy said. “Getting a work permit should be a process that encourages young people to move forward to legalize their status, and not one that makes them more vulnerable to scams or the fear that they could lose everything.”
“Immigration services fraud often centers on confusion around the term ‘notario,’ which in many Latin American countries, denotes a highly-trained attorney,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “But in the United States, a notary public is not licensed to give legal advice, nor represent people in immigration proceedings. Only an attorney or a not-for-profit organization accredited by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can represent clients in immigration proceedings.”
Notaries in the U.S. serve the public in matters usually concerned with estates, deeds, and powers-of-attorney; they often administer oaths and authenticate the execution of certain documents.
Scammers often advertise heavily in newspapers and local radio stations serving immigrant communities, and using the term “notario publico,” may promise legal services they are not equipped nor authorized to provide. Even honest, well-meaning notaries public will not be able to provide the level of legal service that eligible immigrants may expect for their money.
To avoid being disappointed or defrauded, the Department advises persons who will seek legal assistance with their immigration proceedings to do the following.
- Get accurate information and legal advice directly from a licensed attorney with experience in immigration matters or USCIS-accredited representative or agency.
- Don’t believe that any immigration consultant or notario has special connections with the government, knows about “secret programs,” or can expedite your individual application.
- Insist on a written contract that explains what services you will receive and for what price.
- If using the internet to locate an immigration attorney, be wary of “dot.com” immigration websites; these businesses charge for forms and are typically not accredited, nor do they have legal qualifications. All USCIS forms are available for free at www.uscis.gov.
For questions about the new policy, call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at 1-800-375-5283 or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours or send an e-mail to EROPublicAdvocate@ice.dhs.gov.