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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 or pay for a service, CLINIC wants to help you protect yourself, and others, from 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.” This person is only allowed to witness the signing of official documents. They may not give legal advice or provide immigration legal 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!

These resources can help you recognize and report scams, advocate against notario fraud, as well as find quality legal assistance.


General Education Resources / Advocacy Resources / How Immigration Fraud Hurts


General Education Resources

Immigrants, use these resources to help you identify when someone tries to take advantage of you. Learn how to protect yourself.


Avoid scams

This one-page resource highlights the common types of scams immigrants are exposed to when seeking assistance with their immigration matter. Share this document to help your community avoid these harmful practices.

Availble in French and Spanish. Disponible en Français and Disponible en español

A resource that clarifies the types of services immigration consultants may provide with immigration matters.

Available in French and Spanish. Disponible en Français and Disponible en español

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.

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.

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.


Where to get qualified immigration legal help

CLINIC has more than 330 Catholic and community-based organizations across 47 states and the District of Columbia in its network that provide immigration legal services. Search by state or city to find legal providers closest to you.

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 to report notario fraud

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. 

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.


Advocacy Resources

Immigration advocates, use these resources to educate lawmakers about the consequences of immigration services fraud on their communities. Strong policies against scammers will protect families from harmful services and punish wrongdoers.


Are you interested in learning how state governments address notario fraud across the country? Listen to Patricia Bower of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and Sarah Poulimas of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office talk about their states' laws that restrict unlawful immigration services and the penalties that apply.

This document suggests ways state officials can strengthen consumer protections against immigration services fraud and improve access to state agencies’ reporting procedures.

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.

This resource provides talking points for why states should enact laws that protect your community against notario fraud and other harmful immigration services.


How Immigration Fraud Hurts

Millions of people are targeted because their immigration status is seen as a weakness. Here are some of their stories.   


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.


If you have any questions about the resources on this page please email advocacy@cliniclegal.org.