Financial Resources for Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented immigrants may have a tough time doing normal things like opening a bank account or establishing a paper trail to demonstrate their residency. Some sort of financial stability is necessary in cases where funds are needed for personal or legal spending, especially in immigration cases.

Everyone needs to manage their finances. The stakes are high for those living in a country illegally who need  security. Not only must they support themselves in the U.S., but they must pay the cost associated with their immigration case. 

Even before a case begins,  funds may be needed  in order to pay for applications and fees. Many of the forms that are needed for visas, or a green card typically cost over $100 and could range to several hundreds. (2)

Establishing a paper trail is also essential . By setting up a bank account or a credit card, and paying taxes, public records can corroborate  the amount of time that someone  has been living in the country.  This could be vital evidence in a immigration case, showing that the defendant has lived in the U.S. for several years could sway the judge’s decision.(2) 

There are some instances in  deportation cases where judges base their decision on deportation by  weighing the positive and negative factors of residency. Positive validation for the judge’s decision would be having records of their  finances and the taxes paid.(2)

It is also encouraged that the defendant have a secure fund available in case it is needed to pay bond.

ITIN: Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

An identification number is needed to open a bank account or get a credit card. The most common identification number is a social security number. Green card holders, individuals that have been granted asylum, refugees and people with certain visas, or people who have been naturalized and become  U.S. citizens qualify for this identification.(4)

Those who do not qualify for a social security number need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). These are granted to foreign  nationals who are working in the U.S. and paying taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Anyone can apply for an ITIN when they file federal taxes to the IRS. 

There are a number of documents that are required to apply for a ITIN:

1. Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

2. Proof of identification and foreign status. It must have the applicant’s name and photograph. In many cases, the applicant may need to provide two documents. Only 13 specific documents  are  accepted 13 and they must be the original or certified copy. They include: 

  • Passport (this is the only stand alone document that proves both identity and foreign status)
  • National ID card (must have current address, date of birth, and expiration date)
  • U.S. driver’s license
  • Civil birth certificate (required for dependants under 18-years-old)
  • U.S. state identification card
  • Foreign voter’s registration card
  • U.S. military identification 
  • Foreign military identification card
  • Visa
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo ID
  • Medical records (only for dependents under the age of six)
  • School records (only for depends under the age of 14, or under the age of 18 if they are currently enrolled in school) (5)

3. Complete the federal tax return and attach it to the Form W-7 and proof of identity. 

4. Submit to the IRS. (4)

The IRS allows the applicant to mail in the documents when the application is submitted. Or, the applicant can make an appointment with the IRS on their website to present the documents in person. While the IRS will send the documents back to the applicant if mailed , it’s better to make an appointment in person to avoid not handing over personal documents. (4)

How Undocumented Immigrants Can Open a Bank Account 

1. Individuals  must provide the bank with their name, date of birth, and one of the following documents:

  • Unexpired passport
  • Government-issued driver’s license (could be a foreign one)
  • Consular ID
  • Birth certificate

2. Individuals  must provide proof of  residence in the U.S. This could be a number of documents that have the applicant's address, such as a utility bill, lease or current driver’s license.  

3. They will need to provide their identification in one of the following ways: 

  • Social Security number
  • ITIN
  • Alien identification card number (3)

Emergency Fund

An emergency fund, or a “Rainy Day” fund, is crucial.  This can ensure that they can pay for  healthcare, house repair, or fighting a deportation case. It is also a good base to start accumulating stability. The emergency fund is a place where money is  set aside for emergencies. (6)

An emergency fund does not need to be extravagant, nor should it be a strain on everyday finances like food, bills, and clothing. The payment to the fund can be as little as $10 per month. After time, the fund will grow and  it may become very valuable when money is needed. (6)


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