Important Distinctions for Immigrants From Mexico
If you are coming into the United States from Mexico, you may be familiar with the term notario publico. But beware. Though notario publico literally translates into “notary public” in English, it means something totally different in Mexico. A person licensed as a notary public in the United States will not be able to perform the tasks of a notario publico. Unfortunately, many notary publics are representing themselves as notario publicos among Hispanic immigrants in the United States, even though most states have laws making it illegal for a notary public to use the term “notario publico” in advertising.
In addition, documents signed by a notario publico may not meet the notarization requirements in the United States. At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we fully understand the difference and can help protect your legal rights.
What Is a Notario Publico?
A notario publico functions more like an American paralegal. They are individuals who went to college to obtain a law degree and are licensed as lawyers. They cannot be the leader of a church, and they must not have a criminal record. They must take a written exam and must study under another notario for at least six months. In many Latin American countries, a notario publico must be a minimum age (usually 35 years old) and must be a lawyer with a minimum amount of experience (typically five years or more).
The traditional tasks handled by a notario publico include:
- Preparation of legal documents, such as property deeds
- Issuance of judicial opinions
- Review of legal documents for inaccuracies or inconsistencies
- Intervention in judicial proceedings
- “Protocolization” of a wide range of legal documents, including articles of incorporation, real estate documents, mortgages, and deeds
- A notario publico may also serve as a mediator or an arbitrator.
What Is a Notary Public?
A notary public is a person who has been granted the authority, typically by a state government, to act as a witness to the signing of various documents. The notary typically screens the parties to a signing, ensuring:
- The identities of the parties;
- That each party understands the document they are signing; and
- That they are signing without duress, coercion, or undue influence.
The notary public serves as an impartial witness, helping minimize the potential for fraud. Accordingly, a notary public cannot witness any document in which they have a personal interest.
In addition to witnessing documents, the common duties of a notary public include the administration of oaths, the contesting of certain legal documents or instruments, and the taking of depositions or acknowledgements. Though there is no educational prerequisite to become a notary public, a bond must typically be posted (only $2,500 in Texas). No criminal record check is required, but a notary public must be either a resident or permanent resident alien of the United States.
There are few barriers to becoming a notary public. In Texas, for example, there are almost 400,000 registered notaries among the state’s 22 million people. In contrast, Mexico City, with about 9 million residents, has fewer than 250 notario publicos.
Contact the Proven Immigration Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with a compassionate, knowledgeable, and assertive immigration lawyer, contact us by email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.