Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law | CLINIC

Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law

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Immigrating to another country takes a lot of courage. Some people may see your immigration status as a weakness and try to take advantage of you. Others may genuinely want to help you, but they simply are not authorized or qualified to do so. Before you ask someone for help on your immigration case, or pay for any services, CLINIC wants to teach you how to protect yourself against immigration scams, commonly called notario fraud.

In the United States, only attorneys and Department of Justice accredited representatives can provide legal advice and services about immigration. The term “notario publico” in English means “notary public,” which here is someone who is only allowed to witness the signing of official documents. They cannot give legal advice or provide immigration services. Every year many people are misled, which often results in the loss of thousands of dollars, a stalled immigration case, deportation, and/or the separating of families. This does not have to be your future.

The following resources will further explain how to identify the types of people and organizations who can help you, how to recognize and report scams, plus provide other relevant information on avoiding notario fraud.

You can also browse our affiliate directory to find an immigration attorney or DOJ-accredited representative to assist you.


Understand the unauthorized practice of immigration law in your state

This report, intended to help policymakers and advocates at the state and local levels who wish to create or further strengthen laws to combat the unauthorized practice of immigration law, was produced through a partnership between American University Washington College of Law and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Advance your advocacy on this issue with our new state Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law scorecards.

The “Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL): A State-by-State Overview of Legal Mechanisms to Combat these Deceptive Practice” resource is intended for immigration attorneys, recognized and accredited representative, and community-based organizations assisting noncitizen clients who have been victims of unauthorized practice of immigration law. 

Understand the risk of immigration fraud

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Many people will offer you help – some would like to cheat you, others will offer out of kindness. Either could jeopardize your future immigration status. Even small mistakes can result in severe consequences. Seek only qualified legal help.

Available in English and Spanish. Disponible en español.

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Trying to understand immigration law by yourself can be overwhelming. Figuring out who to trust is just as hard. Beware of notarios and other immigration scammers trying to cheat you out of your money and waste your time.

Available in English

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There are many options out there to file a complaint against illegal business practices and and notario fraud. We've compiled a list to reference should you find yourself in an immigration scam. 

Available in English and Spanish. Disponible en español.

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A tip sheet outlining five important reasons why you should report unauthorized practice (notarios) each and every time. 

Available in English and Spanish. Disponible en español.

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A very informative guide on the best ways to avoid immigration scams to protect yourself and not suffer consequences. 

Available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. Disponible en español.

Cover of resource titled "Are immigrants in your community looking for advice? Here’s how you can help."

It’s natural to want to help people in trouble, but sometime the wrong help can hurt. Use this resource to learn the dos and don’ts when someone is in need of legal help.

Available in English and Spanish. Disponible en español.




How immigration fraud hurts

Justice for Immigrants Campaign

Raised in a tiny village in Galilee, my father, the eldest of 5 children, was raised by loving parents who made a meager living as poor farmers. My mother, who was raised in an orphanage from a young age by a community of Sisters in Jerusalem, married my father at seventeen. During my childhood, my father worked as a mechanic and my mother as a teacher. While our home was filled with love, my parents recognized that their children would have better opportunities for education, advancement, and success in the U.S.


Tips for practitioners

Woman working at computer with calculator
Leya Speasmaker

During the tax season, there are many ways for immigration legal service programs to help clients complete this important task, as well as avoid falling victim to scams. Visit CLINIC’s new Center for Immigrant Integration for resources on tax assistance preparation and other ways to encourage immigrant integration in your community.

Nathaly Perez

Adonia R. Simpson, Esq. is readying Catholic Charities of Baltimore, Maryland to serve a rapid increase in the number of immigrants.  This is a result of President Obama’s executive actions announced on November 20 offering administrative relief to an estimated four million immigrants.

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Martin Gauto

The Inland Empire region of Southern California, east of Los Angeles, is home to over one million foreign-born persons. Comprised of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the Inland Empire (or the “The IE” as it’s known) has a severe shortage of low-cost, professional immigration legal service providers. 

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Sue Colussy

Several government agencies including United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division have joined forces to participate in the Administration’s Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law Initiative.

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