www.nyvisalawyer.com

What Are Immigration Assistance Services

New York State does allow for these immigration assistance services to operate providing limited services, but it is regulated by NY law and THEY ARE NOT PERMITTED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE. 

There are registration requirements and requirements for how they advertise, post notices, inform clients of their rights, and there is a list of services they cannot offer.  These service providers must hold a surety bond in the amount of $50,000 to protect clients who may be harmed by their services, and they are subject to fines and other legal action for violating those guidelines. 

Exec. Law 135-b(2), (3)
Requires a Notary who advertises Notary services in a foreign language to include a prescribed notice, as specified; prohibits a Notary from using terms in a foreign-language advertisement that mean or imply the Notary is an attorney licensed to practice law in NY

What Are Immigration Assistance Service Providers?

Many states allow the sketchy practice of non-lawyers charging money to assist immigrants in preparing their filings for USCIS or Immigration Court. I strongly advise against using these operations, especially since New York is a market that is flooded with Immigration Lawyers and therefore has an abundance of very low-cost immigration attorneys, on top of the many pro bono legal service providers. 

Should I Use One to Save Money?

I get how these services may be appealing to people who are filing an I-90 to get a replacement green card. The problem is when people think they are doing something routine like filing for citizenship after being a resident for 30 years, and they don’t realize that by doing so, they may be opening up a can of worms that results in them in Court fighting not to lose their legal permanent resident status. 

There are plenty of immigration lawyers that offer free consultations, so go meet with one and make sure you know what you don’t know before you do something that may end up harming your case. 

Are They Legal In New York State?

New York State does allow for these immigration assistance services to operate providing limited services, but it is regulated by NY law and THEY ARE NOT PERMITTED TO PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE.

Specifically, the New York General Business Law, Article 28-C, Section 460 (link).

Gen. Bus. Law Article 28-c Section 460-a Defines immigrant assistance services, specifies rules for contracts and notices, provides prohibited acts and penalties, and requires a surety bond, contract of indemnity or irrevocable letter of credit of at least $50,000 if total fees and compensation for providing services exceeds $250,000 a year.

One thing I really like about the law is the requirement that these service providers have a surety bond that is for the benefit of any client they harm with their service.

28-C, Section 460 F provides:

Every provider shall maintain in full force and effect for the entire period during which the provider provides immigrant assistance services and for one year after the provider ceased to do business as an immigrant assistance service provider, a bond, contract of indemnity, or irrevocable letter of credit, payable to the people of the state of New York, in the principal amount of fifty thousand dollars; provided, however, that every provider that receives in excess of two hundred fifty thousand dollars in total fees and other compensation for providing immigrant assistance service during any twelve-month period shall maintain in full force and effect a bond, contract of indemnity, or irrevocable letter of credit, payable to the people of the state of New York, in the principal amount of twenty percent of such total fees and compensation. Such surety shall be for the benefit of any customer who does not receive a refund of fees from the provider to which he or she is entitled, or is otherwise injured by the provider. The attorney general on behalf of the customer or the customer in his or her own name, may maintain an action against the provider and the surety.

Full Text of the Law    or as a PDF

ARE THERE STATES WHERE THEY ARE ILLEGAL?

Yes. Several states have laws barring them or limiting things like advertising with the term “notario” or similar laws.

CALIFORNIA

Business and & Professional Code 6126.7 and 22442.3; Goverment Code 8219.5
Prohibits translation of notario public into Spanish; establishes rules for advertising as a Notary in a foreign language; provides remedies

COLORADO

CRS 12-55-110.3(1), (2), (3)
Prohibits a Notary who is not a CO attorney from representing or advertising himself or herself as an immigration consultant or an expert on immigration matters; requires posting of a prescribed notice, as specified if a Notary advertises in a language other than English; prohibits a nonattorney Notary from using the phrase notario publico to advertise the services of the Notary.

CONNECTICUT

CGS 3-95a
Prohibits a Notary from offering legal advice in immigration matters unless the Notary is an attorney or is authorized under 8 CFR 292.2; prohibits a Notary from using or assuming or advertising with the title notario publico unless the Notary is an attorney or provides written notice or states in the advertisement that the Notary is not an attorney.

Massachusetts

GL 221-46A
Defines the practice of law

Gov. Exec. Order 455 (04-04) (6)(i), (j)
Prohibits a Notary public from claiming to have powers, qualifications, rights, or privileges that the office of Notary Public does not provide, including the power to counsel on immigration matters; prohibits a Notary from using the term notario or notario publico or any equivalent non-English term in any business card, advertisement, notice, or sign; prohibits a nonattorney Notary from assisting another person in drafting, completing, selecting, or understanding a document or transaction requiring a notarial act, or otherwise engaging in the practice of law.

OTHER STATES

There are about a dozen other States that have similar laws restricting legal service providers. A good place to look up your state if you don’t see it above is https://www.nationalnotary.org/immigration/knowledge-center/state-immigration-consulting-rules



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