As a Texas immigration attorney, I guide a lot of families through the process of becoming permanent residents. Some of my clients come to see me after a “Notario” already ruined their chances of ever becoming permanent residents. It is devastating for families who spend all of their time, money, and effort on these Notarios, only to find out that the petitions were not properly filed and/or that is was not the appropriate petition for that particular client.
Part of the confusion, and the reason some notarios take advantage of it, is because of cultural differences. In Mexico, a “Notario Publico” is someone who has extensive legal training, and is often a lawyer. A Notario Publico in Mexico can ensure payment of taxes, protocolize public deeds, issue judicial opinions, and even intervene in judicial proceedings. In Texas, as in most of the United States, virtually anyone can qualify to become a Notary Public. If you are a legal resident of this country, 18 years old, and you are willing to fill out an application and pay applicable fees, you too could be a Notary. A Notary Public typically takes acknowledgements and shows that the signer of a document is indeed who s/he says s/he is and that his or her reasons for signing are genuine.
Many immigrants that are new to this country do not realize that the role of the Notary in the United States is substantially different than in Mexico or other South American countries. Some people, who claim to be Notaries or Notarios have taken advantage of this and stolen thousands of dollars from clients who trusted them. But Notarios typically know too little and charge too much. They also put immigrants at risk, often filing petitions that may put people at risk of deportation or inadmissibility.
It is important that when you get immigration help, that you make sure you are getting help from a lawyer and not a notary. You can check which lawyer are licensed and in good standing by checking with the local State Bar website or by calling the state bar directly.
The principal difference between a Notario Publico from another country and a U.S. Notary Public is that the “Notario” is responsible for the legality of the content of the document while the Notary Public, typically found in the United States, only certifies the identity of the signer. The difference is substantial.
Notaries are not lawyer. If you meet someone who calls himself or herself a “Notario,” a “Notary,” or “Legal Consultant,” beware. They might tempt you with a “deal” or “discount” on your immigration case, only to make matters more difficult and expensive for you in the future. Just remember that If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Daniella Lyttle is an experienced immigration lawyer in Travis County. Her office is located in Austin, Texas. If you have immigration questions, we can help. You can reach us at (512) 329-2770.