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  • Reform to Create Completely New Lending Market

    Posted by on August 6, 2013

    This blog contains excerpts from the recently published article “Path to Citizenship Will Lead Members to Your Door” in Credit Union Magazine.

    With an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S., immigration reform will have a tremendous impact on the economy — particularly the financial services industry. Like many American businesses and organizations, credit unions stand to benefit from an immigration reform bill, particularly as it relates to helping immigrants as they travel the path to citizenship. Credit union leaders who think strategically about membership growth can’t afford to ignore the important step many Americans are pushing their legislators to take.

    In the most basic sense, credit unions will find a completely new market for lending products in the wake of immigration reform.

    Here’s how: Today, the filing fee for the application to naturalization through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has reached $680 per person, and families often have several individuals going through the process at once. Unfortunately, this can be the least of the all the necessary expenses, which may include filing fees for temporary residence, permanent residency or legal fees. In fact, some families pay upwards of $10,000 when all is said and done for just one individual to adjust his or her immigration status.

    Whereas U.S.-born consumers may not think twice about using traditional financial institutions to save and borrow to pay for fees associated in gaining citizenship, a Hispanic immigrant may not think this is even an option. With check-cashers, money order providers, and friends or family fronting loans, credit unions often are not even considered by Hispanic immigrants.

    Credit unions can change this — now is the perfect time for Hispanics to be introduced to the credit union difference.

    A critical first step is establishing trust. Credit unions must work within their local communities to begin to build the relationships that will grow over time. Credit unions already working with Hispanic communities certainly have a leg up — grassroots community initiatives often yield a higher return than extensive media campaigns.

    One of the best grassroots efforts to start with is culturally relevant financial education sessions that take into account how Hispanic immigrants handle their money today and shows them better alternatives that help them achieve financial success. These are particularly beneficial for credit unions looking to serve immigrant families who are not only going through the immigration and naturalization process, but who are simply going through the stages of life that require a sound financial partner.

    It’s this kind of outreach that ultimately allows credit unions to plant the seeds of trust that grow into loyal, life-long memberships.

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