Problems with an unlicensed legal provider

In the wake of President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration, the State Bar of California advises consumers to be aware of scam artists who promise help related to immigration reform.

The executive actions are summarized online by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are not in effect yet. “Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam,” the government website warns.

 If you feel you’ve been the target of an unethical adviser, you can file a complaint with the State Bar about the unauthorized practice of law, also called UPL. You do not need to be a citizen to file a complaint.

Only attorneys can give legal advice. Immigration consultants can give only non-legal help, such as translating answers on forms. They cannot suggest answers or advise on which forms to fill out. Ask to see an attorney’s license. If the attorney claims to be licensed in California, check to see if he or she is in good standing with the State Bar online or by calling the bar’s immigration hotline at 866-879-4532.

Some advisers may call themselves “notarios,” a term used in some Latin American countries by those who do hold a license to practice law. But in California, a law now allows only attorneys to call themselves “notarios.”

The law also requires non-lawyer immigration consultants to file a bond of $100,000 with the Secretary of State.

For more information about immigration consultants or notarios, see our story on the State Bar website. For more information about filing a complaint against a non-lawyer or a lawyer licensed in California, call 866-879-4532.

Contact us

Office of Chief Trial Counsel/Intake
The State Bar of California
845 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, California 90017-2515
Immigration hotline: