Should I use a notario or friend to help me fill out my immigration forms? Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States.
We want to begin this video by talking about what exactly is a notario, or a notary. A lot of time, in immigrant communities, you'll see people hang out a shingle that says, "Immigration Forms, Forms and Taxes, Taxes and Forms, Immigration Help Here." The person who hangs out the form is not an attorney. What you should know first and foremost, that this is the unauthorized practice of law. These people are breaking the law by claiming to be able to help you fill out forms. The law is designed to protect you. The law is designed to protect the immigrant from people what claim to know how to fill out forms.
We have seen many, many, many cases, far too many cases get denied or really, really screwed up because of bad advice that a notario, or a notary, or a friend, has given to an immigrant in completing their forms. The first problem is is that immigration is a whole lot more than just filling out form. A lot of people think that it's just a matter of checking boxes and filling in information. The thing that is important is that each of the questions on most immigration forms, other than the biographical information, each of those questions are designed to address a particular area of the law within immigration. A statue, a law, or a regulation, that sets forth why someone may or may not be entitled to the immigration benefits sought.
Now, notarios, they just want your money. They just want to get your money in their pocket and to fill out the form as quickly as possible. We routinely see and hear about cases in which a notario fills out forms for someone, and the person is clearly not eligible for the benefits sought. The application is then denied, and the immigrant finds themselves not only with a denied immigration form, with the loss of the money that they paid to the notario, but sadly, they find themselves in deportation. This is one of the big ways that notarios can really screw up your case.
Another thing is that because they don't know the law, they sometimes say things in your application, or they tell you to fill out a form a certain way, and that is bad information. We just got off the chat today with someone who said that the notario told them to lie about the fact that their father had been deported. They told them to check the no box instead of the yes box. They were trying to get the father back to the United States. Well, this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Notarios are not lawyers, they're not steeped in the law, they haven't studied the law, and sadly, they make mistakes all the time.
They often prey on the fact that they are of the same immigration background, the same nationality, the same ethnic community as people who are seeking immigration benefits, so very very, very careful in dealing with a notario or anyone that says that they are able to fill out immigration forms. Make sure you see their bar card. Make sure that they're an attorney. Check out their online reputation. Make sure that they are reputable and that they know what they're doing.
If you have been screwed over by a notario, or if you feel like you have been taken advantage of, or have given them too much money, or given them money and they gave you bad information, you should really follow-up with your state attorney general. You should really follow-up with your state bar association, because like I said, this is the unauthorized practice of law. These people are taking advantage of the immigrants. They don't know what they're doing. They're going to screw up your case.
I don't care if you hire me or any other immigration attorney, but you absolutely should not be doing business with a notario. You should instead get competent immigration advice from a good immigration attorney, whether that's me or somebody else, that's just fine, but this video is a public service announcement trying to encourage you to stay away from notarios at all costs. They will hurt your chances of staying in the United States. They could get you deported, and they clearly don't know what they're doing.
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Thanks a lot, and have a great day.