Legal Duties of a Provider
Every immigration assistance provider may only perform the following immigration services:
- Transcribing responses on a government agency form related to immigration matters, but not advising on answers
- Translations services- This includes translating information and instructions on a form as well as translating documents from a foreign language to English
- Securing and collecting necessary supporting documentation to submit with government agency forms including, but not limited to birth and marriage certificates, foreign passports, tax forms, police clearances and educational credentials.
- Notarizing signatures if a notary public licensed in Pennsylvania is performing the service.
- Arranging medical testing and obtaining test results.
Each provider must execute a written contract with the customer before providing services for an immigration matter and must include the following:
- Name, address and phone number of the Provider
- Itemization of all services to be provided to the customer
- Identification of all costs and fees charged to the customer
- A statement that any and all original documents may not be retained by the Provider
- A statement that the customer must receive a copy of all documents filed to a government agency
- A statement that the customer is not obligated to obtain documents through the Provider, but that the client can retain said documents themselves.
- A statement on the face of the contract with language similar to the following:
“The individual providing assistance to you under this contract is not an attorney licensed to practice law or accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to provide representation to you and may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice.”
- A statement that the customer may cancel the contract within three (3) business days with language similar to the following:
“You have three (3) business days to cancel this contract. Notice of cancellation must be in writing. If you cancel this contract within three (3) business days, you will get back your documents and any fees that you paid.”
- Statements similar to the following:
“The individual providing assistance to you under this contract is prohibited from disclosing any information or filing any forms or documents with immigration or other authorities without your knowledge and consent.”
“A copy of all forms completed and documents accompanying the forms shall be kept by the service provider for three years. A copy of the customer’s file shall be provided to the client on demand and without fee.”;
- A statement that the provider has financial surety in effect to benefit the customer in the event the customer is owed a refund along with the contact information of the surety. The statement should read similar to the following:
“The provider is required by law to have insurance, which is called a financial surety. If you are not given the services you agreed on, as the customer you may be able to get your money back through this insurance.”
It shall be unlawful for any provider, person, or business entity engaged in the business of immigration assistance services to:
Dealing with Customers– In the course of dealing with customers or prospective customers:
- Make any statement that the person can or will obtain special favors from or has special influence with the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice or any other government agency; or threaten to report the client to immigration or other authorities or undermine in any way the client’s immigration status or attempt to secure lawful status;
- Make any guarantee or promise to a customer, regarding outcomes in an immigration matter;
- Demand or retain any compensation for service not performed or costs that are actually not incurred;
- Fail to provide a customer with copies of documents filed with a governmental entity, or refuse to promptly return documents supplied by, prepared by, or paid for by the customer upon the request of the customer, or upon termination of the contract, even if there is a fee dispute between the licensee and the customer;
- Give any legal advice concerning an immigration matter or otherwise engage in the practice of law, including, but not limited to, any advice regarding the selection of forms to be completed and submitted to any government agency in connection with an immigration matter;
When Advertising- Represent or advertise, in connection with the provision of assistance in immigration matters, the title of lawyer or attorney at law, or equivalent terms in the English language, or any other language, including, but not limited to, “notary public,” “accredited representatives of the Board of Immigration Appeals” or “immigration consultant,” that could reasonably cause a customer to believe that the person possesses any form of license, accreditation, or official authorization to provide advice on an immigration matter. Provided, however, that a notary public licensed in Pennsylvania may use the term “notary public” if such use is accompanied by the statement that the person is not an attorney;
When Providing Fingerprints- State, imply, offer or otherwise represent that a person, business, agency, office or organization is authorized to provide fingerprinting services which will be accepted by the United States Department of Homeland Security for the process of DHS applications or for any other purpose;
When Making a Referral- Charge fees, directly or indirectly, for referring an Individual to an attorney for any immigration matter. Provided, however, that a person may charge a fee for notarizing documents as permitted by the Pennsylvania laws regarding notary publics;
Charge for forms- Represent that a fee may be charged, or charge a fee, for the distribution, provision or submission of any official document or form issued or promulgated by a state or federal governmental entity, or for the referral of the customer to another person or entity that is qualified to provide services or assistance which the provider will not provide;
Disclose Information- Disclose any information to, or file any forms or documents with, immigration or other authorities without the knowledge or consent of the customer;
Refuse to Comply- Refuse to comply with any reasonable and lawful request from a Department inspector acting within the scope of responsibility under this Section;
Perform other Acts- Perform, or offer to perform, any immigration assistance services or other act which requires a commercial activity license under Section 19-2602 and registration under this Section without a valid commercial activity license issued by the Department and registration approved by the Department;
Refusal to adhere to law
Fail to adhere to any provision of this Section
Penalties and Enforcement.
Enforcement. In addition to any other penalty provided by law, any person who violates any provision of subsection (3) shall be deemed to have committed a Class III offense and be subject, in a an appropriate Code enforcement proceeding, to the fines set forth in subsection 1-109(3) of the Code. Any person who violates any provision of subsections (4) through (6) shall be deemed to have committed a Class III offense, and be subject, in a proceeding under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, to the fines set forth in subsection 1-109(3) of the Code or to imprisonment not exceeding ninety (90) days, or to both. Each day that a violation of any provision of this section continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense. Any person who violates any provision of this section shall further be liable in a private action as provided in subsection (8).
Penalties. Upon the Department’s determination that a provider is in violation of subsection (3) hereof, or upon receipt of information of a provider’s violation of subsections (4) through (6) hereof, the Department may take appropriate action against the individual or business entity, including:
Suspension of License. Suspension of licenses granted under Section 19-2602 for all premises operated by the individual where violations have occurred. During any period of license suspension, each and every location of the individual’s business shall cease operation as an immigration assistance service provider.
Cease Operations Order. The Department may issue a Cease Operations Order for each business location operated by the individual whose license(s) has been suspended in accordance with the same procedures as set out in Section 19-2602(4)(h), (5), (6), provided that the Cease Operations Order shall identify the prohibited operations and shall state that the applicable license has been suspended for violation(s) of the Code.
No License. No new license shall be issued for a business location posted with a Cease Operation Order or a license suspension, so long as any person under a license suspension imposed by the Department, or any member of such person’s immediate family, or, in the case of a corporation, the corporation or any affiliated business entities, retain a pecuniary interest in the property at that location.
Private Right of Action.
Any person aggrieved by any violation of this Section or any rule or regulation promulgated hereunder, may bring an action in an appropriate court against any person subject to this Section, for injunction against the violation or for such other or additional relief as may be appropriate to deter, prevent or compensate for the violation. Remedies for violation of this Ordinance shall be cumulative, and shall include costs, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, to the extent allowed by law. Any judgment obtained against a provider under this Section may be provided to the Department and provide a basis for a suspension of license and cease operations order.