The Pennsylvania Department of State is taking steps to address the potential for confusion when the term notary public is translated into a foreign language.
The term “notario publico” is the literal translation of the words notary public in Spanish. However, in many Latin American countries a “notario publico” is an attorney licensed to practice law and offer legal advice, In the United States, a notary public is not necessarily a licensed attorney. A notary in the U.S. cannot give legal advice unless the notary also is an attorney.
While the Department is seeking to have the Notary Public Law amended in the future, at this time the Department is attempting to create transparency by advising the public and notaries about the confusion of translating the term notary public into a foreign language. The Department also is asking that notaries who are not licensed attorneys and who advertise their services in languages other than English to make it clear to their customers and the general public that the notary may not offer legal advice or services in the United States.
Notaries choosing to advertise by written or oral communication in a language other than English are being asked to make it clear that they are not licensed attorneys and cannot give legal advice. Advertisements include but are not limited to signs, notices, press releases, newspapers, documents, stationery, letterhead, business cards, brochures, pamphlets, radio, television, Internet or other electronic medium.
The Department is also asking every notary public who is not a licensed attorney or not an accredited immigration representative with a Board of Immigration Appeals Recognized Organization entitled to represent applicants before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and who advertises the services of a notary public in a language other than English, to include in, post or otherwise attach to said advertisement, a written or verbal notice, in English and in every other language used, which sets forth the following disclaimer:
“I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and I may not give any legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. I cannot explain or interpret the contents of any document for you, instruct you on how to complete a document or direct you in the advisability of signing a particular document.”
If the foreign language advertisement is written the disclaimer should be translated into each foreign language used and placed on a separate, notice or signage of conspicuous size. The disclaimer should be posted in a location in the notary’s place of business where it will be visible to customers. At a minimum, each sign or notice should be at least 8 1/2 x 14 inches or adjacent to the advertisement.
If the foreign language advertisement is verbal, the required disclaimer above should be immediately translated in each language used.
Literal translation of the phrase “notary public” into Spanish, as “notario público” or “notario,” or into any other foreign language, that conveys terms or titles including, but not limited to, licensed, attorney, lawyer, or any other term that implies the notary is an attorney is strongly discouraged, unless used with the required disclaimer above.