Small dollars for big change

A new report shows how small-dollar credit can bring immigrants into the financial fold

The promise of coming to the United States is that you can come here with nothing, work hard, and join the fabric of society. Come. Work. Integrate.

There are programs in place to help with integrating, covering intimidating factors like education, language, jobs, and legal help. But immigrants can be left wondering how to build wealth in their new lives.

Without services that help immigrants navigate the American financial system, they become vulnerable to less savory aspects of the financial system, like payday loans. Our new report, Small Dollars for Big Change: Immigrant Financial Inclusion and Access to Credit, describes the financial barriers that can prevent immigrants from becoming citizens and reaching their economic goals.

There aren’t many ways for immigrants to get small-dollar loans or build credit, but we look at some innovative models, like expanding what it means to be “creditworthy,” having better cultural understanding when working with potential clients, and using more technology into the loan process. We also explore how to scale these existing models to help more immigrants access credit.

UnidosUS believes several characteristics are required to establish a viable, sustainable, nationwide marketplace for immigration-related small-dollar loans:

  • Advanced technology for lenders.
  • More lenders focusing on financial needs specific to immigrants.
  • Better integration between financial services and immigrant-serving programs.

Understanding your finances is difficult for just about everyone­­­. With the right resources, any new American can have what they need to make the most of their new home.