What is a notary?

In most Latin American countries, a notary is a legal profession, someone who has a university degree and who belongs to a professional association.  In other words, in Latin America a notary is an attorney who, in addition to performing his profession, has the power to publicly certify facts and actions that occur in his presence.

Unlike in Latin America, in the United States, a notary can only certify signatures on documents. A notary does not have the authority to provide advice in any legal matter, including an immigration case or any other topic. 

A person can become a notary in the United States by taking a six hour class and passing a 45-minute exam!

It is really easy because a notary in the U.S. is just a signature certifier. They take advantage of the confusion over the term “notary,” and abuse immigrants by leading them to believe that they are immigration experts or have the necessary credentials to offer advice and services regarding immigration law.

Keep in mind that not all notaries are crooks.  A notary who limits him/herself to certifying signatures on documents is performing his/her duties properly. A crime is committed the moment a notary exceeds the scope of his/her duties. If the notary provides any advice regarding an immigration case, he/she has exceeded the scope of his/her duties and broken the law. 

Additionally, it’s common that “notaries” and immigration consultants falsely:

  • Offer faster processes
  • Offer special treatment on behalf of someone who work in the Department of Homeland Security or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Guarantee results
  • Offer lower costs than legitimate legal offices (notaries normally charge more than nonprofit organizations)
  • Say they work with an attorney (if so, said attorney would also be committing a crime)

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