California's immigration consultant statute provides generous benefits to anyone who successfully sues an immigration consultant or "notario." The law allows for triple the proved civil damages, or $1,000 per violation, whichever is greater. The law gives the suing party priority courtroom calendar access and requires an immigration consultant who loses a suit to pay attorney's fees. The immigration consultant statute also requires immigration consultants to post a $50,000 bond with the California Secretary of State. This means if you prevail in your suit, the first $50,000 in damages, costs and attorney's fees is simple and easy to collect.
Because the statute provides attorney's fees, we represent the disgruntled clients of immigration consultants and notarios at no charge. We do not charge you any legal fees and we take our fees only if and when we win your case.
|Click here to look up your immigration consultant's bond and photo|
California Business and Professions Code 22442.2(a) sets out the things that an immigration consultant must do. If the consultant fails to do any of these things, even if they did not cause you harm that you can quantify in money, the consultant is liable for at least $1,000 per violation plus attorney's fees and costs of suit.
Immigration consultants must openly display a 20 inch sign in the office in English and the client's language with the name and address of the consultant stating that the consultant will not accept referral fee for referring the client to another person for services the consultant cannot or will not perform. The consultant must also post a second sign with evidence that she complied with the bond requirements including the bond number.
Immigration consultants must provide each client with a written contract and both parties must sign the contract before the consultant may perform any services. The contract must describe the services to be performed, the cost of those services, warn the client that the consultant is not an attorney and cannot act in the capacity of an attorney and that the client has the right to cancel the contract within 72 hours.
Immigration consultants must provide each client with a copy of any document she completed and submitted to the government and must return any and all original documents including birth certificates, marriage certificates and other documents.
While many California District Attorneys do not pursue criminal prosecutions against notarios engaged in the unlawful practice of law, California law encourages them to do so and some offices like the District Attorney of Los Angeles County have prepared prosecutors' manuals to assist deputy district attorneys in filing charges and trying cases against notarios for the unauthorized practice of law.
|Read the Unauthorized Practice of Law Prosecutor's Manual from the Office of the Los Angeles District Attorney (2004)|
California Business and Professions Code Section 22446.5
Civil relief; damages; attorneys' fees; injunctions; priority of cases
22446.5(a) A person claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of this chapter by an immigration consultant may bring a civil action for injunctive relief or damages, or both. If the court finds that the defendant has violated a provision of this chapter, it shall award actual damages, plus an amount equal to treble the amount of actual damages or one thousand dollars ($1,000) per violation, whichever is greater. The court shall also grant a prevailing plaintiff reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.
(b) Any other party who, upon information and belief, claims a violation of this chapter has been committed by an immigration consultant may bring a civil action for injunctive relief on behalf of the general public and, upon prevailing, shall recover reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.
(c) The Attorney General, a district attorney, or a city attorney who claims a violation of this chapter has been committed by an immigration consultant, may bring a civil action for injunctive relief, restitution, and other equitable relief against the immigration consultant in the name of the people of the State of California. (d) An action brought under this chapter shall be set for trial at the earliest possible date, and shall take precedence over all other cases, except older matters of the same character and matters to which special preference may be given by law.
Additionally, a consumer who “suffers any damage” as a result of the use of a “method, act, or practice” prohibited by the Act may bring a class action to represent himself and others who have been treated the same way. Cal. Civ. Code. § 1780(a), 1781(a).
The Immigration Consultants Act (ICA) has also been tested in California's appellate courts. In Mendoza v. Ruesga, 169 Cal.App.4th 270 (2008), the court held that even where the immigration consultant's clients intentionally lied on their applications to the immigration authorities, wrongful conduct that would normally bar equitable relief (the doctrine of "unclean hands"), the ICA did not stop the plaintiffs' from recovering money damages and attorney's fees from the immigration consultant.