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Notaries, Notarios Publicos, and Immigration


Notaries exist in nearly every country on the planet, but the role of notaries in the United States is far more limited than that of their international counterparts. In other countries, notaries are usually lawyers or other professionals who have been specifically trained in the drafting of documents. Latin American populations rely heavily on notarios publicos, also called abogados-notarios (lawyer-notaries), for the drafting of their everyday documents. American notaries, on the other hand, are generally prohibited from drafting documents, with a few exceptions. (Louisiana and Puerto Rico, for example, are civil law jurisdictions where notaries have greater authority.)
 

Notaries in states with large Spanish-speaking populations may find themselves being asked to assist in the completion or filing of immigration documents. While notaries can, for the most part, notarize any document - and aren’t concerned with the contents - they cannot help someone fill out a form. In addition, most immigration forms do not require an actual notarization. Some forms allow notarization by a federal official only. One common immigration form that does require a notarization is the Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request (Form G-639), which uses a jurat. (Remember, however, that every notarial certificate must comply with the laws of your state, even if it is a federal form.)
 

When dealing with Spanish speakers, notaries should be aware of a few things. First, notaries public are typically prohibited from advertising their services using the words “notario publico” because of the confusion this terminology can cause to immigrants from Latin American countries. In fact, state laws in many states - including California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, and New York - specifically prohibit translation of the term “notary public.”
 

In addition, it can be considered the unauthorized practice of law to assist in the completion or filing of immigration forms. Constituents who come to you seeking assistance with such forms beyond a standard notarization should be referred to someone legally authorized to offer that service. Although notaries are generally permitted to sell blank legal forms, some states prohibit non-lawyers from providing immigration forms. 
 

Immigration is a complicated topic that involves state and federal laws. Consult your own state laws and commissioning authority for the most accurate information for your state. You might also consider contacting your state bar association for information on unauthorized practice of law. 

By Evelin Garcia, a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries, Inc.

Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary education, and securing their notary stamp and notary supplies. Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. However, we make no warrant, expressed or implied, and we do not represent, undertake, or guarantee that the information in the newsletter is correct, accurate, complete, or non-misleading. Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding notaries' best practices, federal laws and statutes, and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered this information from a variety of sources and do not warrant its accuracy. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, loss, damage, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss or consequential loss out of or in connection with the use of the information contained in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their states' notary authorities or attorneys in their state if they have legal questions. If a section of this disclaimer is determined by any court or other competent authority to be unlawful and/or unenforceable, the other sections of this disclaimer continue in effect.

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