Notarios: Practicing Law without a License

Notarios: Practicing Law Without A License

What is a Notario?

“Notario” is a term for attorney in Latin America. Unfortunately, oftentimes people here in the United States are deceived into thinking that a “Notario” is an attorney authorized by law to practice in the State- while in fact, he or she may be only a person hanging out a shingle saying “I can file your immigration forms” without any authority to do so. What these “Notarios” are actually doing is practicing law without a license.

Laraine Schwartz  |  Notarios: Practicing Law without a License

It is a felony to practice law without a license in the State of New Jersey. This has drawn the ire of the legal and law enforcement communities in New Jersey for quite some time, and we have been working for years to put these people out of business. To that end, the New Jersey legislature passed a law stating it is a felony to practice law without a license. And the Notarios are in fact acting as if they are attorneys offering advice and filling out and filing forms for immigration matters.

Often times, these “Notarios” do permanent harm to an applicant’s chance of obtaining Legal Permanent Residence or citizenship in the United States. When submitting paperwork for immigration needs, one must ensure that all requirements are evaluated and documents in order – if a “Notario” fails to conduct the required level of due diligence when preparing and filing the paperwork, the applicant is subjected to potential jeopardy that can not easily be remedied.

But a good “Notario” will save me money, right?

“Notarios” are notorious for charging substantial amounts of money; sometimes failing to provide any service whatsoever and leaving the client with no recourse. It is a common occurrence for an out of status person to follow the promising signs that lead to paying someone, even if they are practicing law without a license, substantial sums of money, and then walk away thinking they have filed their immigration case with the hope of a successful outcome. In fact, the “Notario” may abscond with the filing fees and proceeds to do nothing. Ironically, many of them charge more for this “service” than a reputable immigration attorney would charge.

Is it okay for someone out of status to come to a regular attorney?

Of course, but it does not guarantee that we can provide them with an answer at this time. Oftentimes, because of the current immigration laws, people cannot do anything right now if they are out of status.

These are the people “Notarios” target: people desperate for hope and people that cannot call the police or sue if they have been taken advantage of.

In order to stop them, someone needs to be willing to step forward and say “This person is practicing law without a license.” It could be a friend, co-worker or spouse of the person seeking asylum. Ultimately the prosecutor has to decide whether or not they will press charges. The best thing anyone can do is to see an experienced immigration attorney, from the moment you start to plan your case.

Are you or someone you love out of status? Think your case is “just too complicated” to ever get resolved? Contact me today to see how I can help!

Laraine E. Schwartz, Esq.
Winograd and Schwartz
Attorneys at Law, PC
440 60th Street, Suite 206
West New York, NJ 07093


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One thought on “Notarios: Practicing Law Without A License

  1. Hi Laraine; Good article. Just wanted to let you know that as the Assemblywoman of District 36 and a former member of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, I recently dropped a bill in the Assembly which states that notarios when they advertise must include in their advertisement a disclaimer that states they are not lawyers in the language in which they advertise. I will keep you posted once it is listed for a vote.

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