In August 2014, Debra Bowen, the then current Secretary of State of California determined that the I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) issued by the Department of Homeland Security was an immigration document and as such, only a licensed and bonded Immigration Consultant could assist with its completion in California.

Previously, remote HR departments would direct their new empolyees to seek a local notary to assist with the I-9 and to document the identification documents the new hire presented. After that determination, it became illegal in California for a notary to act as Authorized Representative for a remote HR department. Instead, the new employee would need to locate an Immigation Consultant to help them.

This decision created an undue hardship for countless new employees who didn’t have a local HR department they could travel to for ID authentication.
Licensed and bonded Immigration Consultants are few and far between. The cost of the bond can be prohibitive and many Immigration Consultants are ordered to “Cease and Desist” when their bond lapses or they are suspected of fraud.

Some employees misunderstand that what they need is a notary that is also an Immigration Consultant. That is incorrect. The I-9 does not require notarization. Even when notaries were permitted to assist with the I-9, they did not do so as notaries, they did so as a designated representative of the hiring company.
Another reason why it would be difficult to find a notary who is also an Immigration Consultant is that in California, a law prohibits a notary from advertising as a notary if they are also an Immigration Consultant. The law was established to prevent fraud where an Immigration Consultant might misleadingly advertise themselves as a Notario Publico. A Notario Publico is a highly trained legal professional akin to a lawyer in many Latin American countries, whereas a notary public is a commissioned officer of the state that identifies signers and witnesses signatures on legal documents.

So how can one find an Immigration Consultant in good standing? The Secretary of State doesn’t make it easy for you! The SOS website has a data base where you can check the status of an Immigration Consultant’s bond, but you need to know their last name or name of their business:

You can try Googling “Immigration Consultant near me” or alternately, you can do random searches through the SOS website. By entering any letter in the Last Name box or the Business Name box, you’ll get a list of Immigration Consultants state wide whose last names or businesses start with that letter. With a bit of scrolling, you can quickly find an active Immigration Consultant in your general region.

For those new employees located in the San Francisco east bay region, I refer my I-9 inquiries to Bay Area Immigration Services in Fremont.

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