Immigration Attorneys and Assembly Bill 1159

What attorneys need to know about immigration reform services and Assembly Bill 1159

Written notice form - California attorney

Written notice form - Out of state attorney

Notices in other languages

What attorneys need to know about immigration reform services and Assembly Bill 1159

Lawyers and immigration consultants offering services related to proposed federal immigration reform need to be aware of the new law now in effect. AB1159, authored by Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, provides immediate consumer protection for the state’s undocumented immigrants. AB1159 prohibits demanding or accepting any money to assist undocumented immigrants to apply for lawful status in the promise of a “pathway to citizenship” under federal immigration reform, such as the pending S. 744, until Congress has actually passed a law.

The California Legislature passed AB1159 as “urgency” legislation, and it became effective immediately upon enactment with the governor’s signing on Oct. 5, 2013. In addition to the ban on demanding or accepting advance payment of any money before federal immigration reform is enacted, other major changes and new requirements affecting both attorneys and immigration consultants include:

  • Attorneys and immigration consultants must account for any money already accepted for immigration reform services and either refund the money or deposit it in a client trust account.
  • When a contract for legal services is required in writing under Business and Professions Code Section 6148 or Civil Code Section 1632, attorneys must provide clients receiving immigration reform services with a written notice informing them where they can report complaints. The State Bar has prepared two versions of the form of the notice that attorneys are required to give to clients. One version is for use by attorneys who are members of the California bar; the other is for an attorney licensed in another state who has an office or business in California and is authorized under federal law to practice before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service or the Board of Immigration Appeals. Both versions are posted on the State Bar’s website and will be posted in multiple languages. However, do not send either of the forms to the State Bar.
  • The amount of the bond that immigration consultants must carry will double to $100,000 from $50,000. This aspect of AB1159 takes effect on July 1, 2014.
  • The term “notario,” which has been misconstrued as someone who is qualified to give legal advice, can no longer be used by anyone who is not an attorney to advertise their legal services. Those who violate the ban on using “notario” may have to pay a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day for each violation.

Written notice form - California attorney

Written notice form - Out of state attorney

Notices in other languages