Immigration services, or “notario,” fraud is illegal under Washington state’s Immigration Services Fraud Prevention Act (ISFPA). Signed into law in 2011 at the request of the Attorney General’s Office, the law protects consumers from unauthorized entities that peddle assistance completing immigration forms and navigating immigration processes that legally can only be provided by qualified attorneys and accredited representatives.
These unlicensed immigration “consultants” are often notaries public who prey on immigrant clients by referring to themselves as “notarios” or “notarios públicos,” terms that refer to attorneys or individuals with advanced legal training in Latin American countries.
The ISFPA specifically prohibits the use in advertising of these and any other deceptive terms that imply professional legal skills in the area of immigration law.
While immigration services fraud is prevalent in many Latino communities, it also affects other immigrant communities such as North and West African, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Ukrainian communities.
Preventing immigration services fraud
If a person claims to be a lawyer, ask to see his or her bar license. A real lawyer will not be offended by this request.
To check if a person or organization is authorized under federal law to provide immigration services, search www.justice.gov/eoir/ra/raroster.htm. (end)
There are a number of resources to help consumers find qualified immigration assistance:
American Association of Immigration Lawyers-Washington Chapter: www.ailawa.org.
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project: www.nwirp.org.
Latino Bar Association of Washington: www.lbaw.org.
Washington State Bar Association: www.wsba.org.
Authorized nonprofit providers are listed at www.immigrationadvocates.org/nonprofit/legaldirectory.