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Protecting the Settlements of Undocumented Workers & Claimants

B. Josh Pettingill

The feeling can be overwhelming for any claimant who receives a large windfall of settlement money, but more so for an unbanked, undocumented worker who is unfamiliar with common banking laws in the United States. There is a large contingent of undocumented workers living in the US, most notably from Mexico and Guatemala. The reality for many of these foreign-born claimants is that they have never had savings or checking account. It is common practice that many of these undocumented workers financially support their families in their home countries but live from hand to mouth while working in the United States.

Accordingly, it can be a daunting task to establish a US bank account on behalf of an undocumented worker. There are many intricacies involved in doing so; this is especially true for claimants who have minimal forms of identification. However, it is possible for an attorney to establish a US bank account for an undocumented worker if they have the time and patience to do so. For example, Miami, Florida is home to many international consulates, including Mexico, Guatemala, and Brazil. An undocumented worker can obtain two forms of identification from the consulate: 1. Matricula Consular card or 2. Passport. For most banks in the United States, these are the two required forms of identification needed to open a bank account. Another requirement of most banks is to show proof of a US address. One recommendation is to have the claimant provide the bank a letter from the attorney’s law firm addressed to him or her; also, any bill, such as a phone bill or cable bill can suffice as proof of address.

Once the claimant has settled their lawsuit, they often seek to return to their home country. The settlement funds should be housed in a US-based bank and if the claimant decides to move back home, he or she can set up an account in their home country and continue to make periodic withdrawals from their US bank account. Internet wire transfers make it increasingly easier to transfer funds internationally from one account to another. However, it is vital for the claimant to establish a relationship with a US-based banker/contact that speaks the foreign national’s language who can oversee any international transactions. The average cost of an international transaction is $45.00. It is important to note; the claimant can also use an ATM card to make withdrawals from any bank that has an ATM available. For a nominal transaction fee and exchange rate fee, the claimant can withdraw up to $500.00 US dollars per day, which is a substantial amount of money in a lot of these countries.

A greater difficulty than establishing a US bank account for an undocumented worker is finding a reputable banking institution in the home country of the client. In recent years, nationalization and unregulated banks have made it increasingly difficult to locate a reliable bank the claimant can conduct banking transactions. All major US banking institutions have correspondent banking relationships with many foreign banks. There are websites for major US banks and lists of these correspondent banks for each country. Alternatively, a qualified settlement consultant can provide this information, including information on lesser known cities situated in these foreign countries.

Another layer of financial protection for any claimant, including undocumented workers, is a structured settlement. A structured settlement can be established to provide a guaranteed source of tax-free income. An undocumented worker can take full advantage of the benefits of a structured settlement. The claimant can receive periodic payments for any length of time, including over the individual’s estimated lifespan. In addition, there may be a death benefit paid to the individual’s named beneficiary. A qualified settlement consultant can set up the structure payments to direct deposit into the claimant’s US bank account.

Once a case has settled, an attorney should do everything to financially protect their clients. The same ethical standards apply to all claimants. As an attorney, one goal after the settlement is to ensure the safety and accountability of the money for the client. Clients appreciate an attorney who goes above and beyond the norm to care for them. Ultimately, you can rest assured knowing your client’s best interests are protected. Call us today ((877) 242-0022 to show you how we can help increase the value of the case, protect your firm/your client and assist in getting catastrophic claims to the finish line expeditiously when dealing with an undocumented worker.

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