Are Banks Able to Ask About Your Citizenship?

Are Banks Able to Ask About Your Citizenship?

Max Rodriguez

A non-profit immigrant rights organization informs the community about the proper documentation needed to open or maintain a bank account after the organization claims financial institutions are asking for more than is legally required.

Maria Quezada is a legal representative at TODEC Legal Center, she said members of the community have raised concerns over banks asking its customers about their country of citizenship.

She said in times of uncertainty for immigrants, being questioned about their citizenship can be fearful especially if it is from a financial institution that oversees their income.

Quezada said, “A couple came about a few weeks ago and they had gotten a letter from their bank asking for proof of legal status , unfortunately they didn’t have any.”

She said it is not typical for a bank to ask for a person’s citizenship information to open an account.

“You weren’t asked for that, I wasn’t asked for that and all I needed was an I.D. which I had and just proof of my address and that was it,” Quezada said. “You have to be informed on what banks can and cannot do.”

Foreign nationals from Mexico can also use their “Matricula Consular” an identification issued by the Mexican Consulate.

A Bank of America Spokesperson, Carla Molina, said banks are required to maintain accurate records of its clients and says this type of outreach is nothing new.

Molina said the reason the bank asks about a person’s citizenship, “To ensure adherence to economic sanctions”.

Meaning the bank asks the citizenship question to prevent the transferring of money to a country with economic sanctions in place by the United States.

Still, a question about citizenship can be unnerving for a community that feels safer hidden in the shadows.

Quezada said, “Always go to banks where people have gone who are in your similar situation and that can be trusted.”

Molina said Bank of America does not consider citizenship status when establishing bank accounts and information about a person’s citizenship is not shared with any other party.