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LANSING, Mich. – Reviewing an immigrant’s identification documentation can be a daunting task for some financials because of the wealth of information and especially considering the hefty requirements of the U.S. Patriot Act. But the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions is advising financials to take the time to sift through the documentation and not “fall into the trap of unwittingly but illegally discriminating on the basis of national origin” in the interests of complying with the identification requirements in the Patriot Act. “Immigrants have a bewildering assortment of documents issued by the United State Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS, formerly the INS) which can make it difficult for staff to correctly assess and record their identification information. Denying or delaying service because of confusion over identification documentation is perceived as poor customer service and may be considered discriminatory,” DFI stated. Since immigrants do not have a Social Security number, DFI said they may present unique issues in identification. Immigrants have been admitted to the U.S. because the USCIS determined they have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin, said DFI. Before being admitted to the country, they’ve gone through thorough security screenings, “Immigrants are admitted to stay permanently in the United States and have an urgent need to establish employment and financial services,” said the DFI which noted that immigrants represent one of the largest untapped markets for credit unions and banks. The agency described the process immigrants go through when they arrive in the U.S. to illustrate the documentation that’s issued for them. When they first arrive in the U.S. immigrants are issued an I-94 Arrival/Departure Card by the USCIS which includes their name, date of birth and Alien Registration number, but doesn’t include any photographic identification. The USCIS also issues most immigrants an Employment Authorization Document which includes their Alien Registration Number and photo. An immigrant’s Employment Authorization Document, said DFI, meets the requirements of the Patriot Act as a government-issued picture ID with a unique identifying number. So it’s not necessary for immigrants with an Employment Authorization Document to wait to receive a Social Security or state identification card to establish their identity, said DFI. Most legal immigrants in the U.S. also have an Alien Registration Card, Form I551, which includes their picture and identifying information. Even if the immigrant doesn’t have a Social Security number, they can use the card as a required unique identifier. If an immigrant doesn’t have an Employment Authorization Document with their I-94 card, the private voluntary resettlement agency has a Reception and Placement Program Assurance Form that also includes a picture. Together with the I-94 card, this document together with the I-94 card, should be sufficient. “Most immigrants come to the United States with no knowledge of our economic or financial systems and services. The collaborative efforts of state agencies, along with educational and information training, aims to help these immigrants learn how to use mainstream financial services and understand their rights as consumers,” said DFI. -

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