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For Immediate Release:
July 3, 2012
Contact: 518-486-9846
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In anticipation of a widespread increase in immigration scams triggered by the recent change in federal immigration policy granting deferred action status to immigrant youth, the New York Department of State (DOS) today proposed regulation aimed at protecting new Americans from unscrupulous individuals who use the notary public title to commit fraud and cheat people by posing as immigration professionals and attorneys.

The new regulation will prohibit notaries public from advertising their services using foreign language terms that falsely represent or imply that the notary public is an attorney duly licensed, authorized to practice law, or authorized to provide immigration advice.

“It is unacceptable for these con artists to take advantage of our youth and hard-working New Yorkers” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales, who oversees the New York State Office for New Americans and the DOS Division’s of Consumer Protection and Licensing Services. “For a long time now, notarios posing as immigration attorneys or authorized Immigration representatives have victimized thousands of people in our state. These new regulations will ensure that individuals will not misidentify themselves by clearly stating they are not authorized to practice law or give legal advice. Furthermore, anyone who is not playing by the rules will be stripped of their licenses and fined accordingly.”

President Obama announced a change in federal immigration policy that allows certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria to be considered for relief from removal from the country. Eligible youth can apply to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. It is expected this new effort will trigger an increase in scams targeting immigrants.

The proposed consumer protections specifically require notaries public who use foreign language to advertise their services to include the following disclaimer in their advertisement, “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law and may not give legal advice about immigration or any other legal matter or accept fees for legal advice. “

Many honest businesses provide sound assistance to immigrants who are trying to fully participate in New York State’s civic and economic life. However, there are some dishonest businesses that engage in fraud and exploit new Americans.

Quite often, a new American seeks immigration assistance by contracting with licensed (or sometimes unlicensed) notaries public. Because the word for notary public in some languages implies that the individual is an attorney, some hold themselves out as qualified to help immigrants obtain lawful status, or able to perform legal functions such as drafting wills or other legal documents when they are not authorized to do so.

Many times, these fraudsters charge a lot of money for services that are never provided. At times, victims are so damaged by these con artists that they permanently lose out on important immigration opportunities.

The proposed rule published in today’s edition of the State Register would provide stronger consumer protection to immigrant communities by ensuring that foreign language advertisements expressly advise the public that the non-attorney notary is not permitted to practice law.

Public comments will be received for 45 days. The New York Department of State intends for the proposed rule to be effective three months after the notice of adoption. The Division of Licensing Services of the Department of State is tasked with overseeing the licensing and enforcement of the notary public occupation.