Search Penny Hill Press

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Remittances: Background and Issues for Congress

Martin A. Weiss
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

This report focuses on remittances, transfers of money and capital sent by migrants and foreign immigrant communities to their home country. At over $400 billion globally in 2012, up from $75 billion in 1990, remittances are the second largest resource flow to developing countries and are expected to exceed $500 billion by 2015. The United States is the largest destination for international migrants and by far the largest source of global remittances. The World Bank records $51.6 billion in official remittance outflows from the United States in 2011. As the market for remittances has ballooned, banks, traditional money transfer companies, and entrepreneurs have responded to increased demand by increasing the amount of remittance channels available to migrants, including mobile, Internet, and card-based options.

The dramatic rise in the importance of remittances to global capital flows has led Congress and other policymakers to take a greater interest in these flows. Key issues for Congress include: 

Regulation of Remittances.
Members may want to review the regulatory landscape for remittance providers. Effective and proportional regulation of remittances reduces corruption, enhances transparency, and facilitates a more robust business environment. At the same time, additional regulatory requirements, such as recent consumer protection requirements included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Consumer Protection Act, may raise concerns about the compliance costs for remittance providers and consumers.

Congress may also want to consider whether current federal and state regulation are appropriate for new and emerging payments systems such as mobile and card options, which are starting to capture part of the remittance market. Members may also want to review recent efforts to improve foreign regulatory and supervisory mechanisms. Remittances are often sent to recipients in developing countries with weak regulatory systems, increasing the risk of money laundering and possible financing of terrorism. 

Impact on U.S. Development Policy.
Remittances represent a substantial percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in several developing countries. Whether remittances can be leveraged to support U.S. foreign development policy is another issue of concern to some Members of Congress. Some analysts argue that since remittances are comprised of private transfers between family members and friends, U.S. efforts should be directed to reducing the transaction costs involved in remittance transactions. Others note the potential beneficial development aspects of remittances, including promoting investment and access to financial services, and encouraging government programs to help stimulate these positive effects. 

Remittances and U.S. Immigration Policy.
Members may want to consider the interplay of U.S. remittance policy and U.S. immigration policy. A major goal of U.S. policy on remittances is increasing the attractiveness of regulated remittance systems to potential remittance customers, without regard to their legal status. Thus, U.S. Treasury officials allow remittance providers to accept certain foreign-issued means of identification to meet their customer identification requirements. Some Members argue that policies like these may undermine U.S. immigration laws and advocate restricting remittances to those with legal status under U.S. immigration laws. Others argue that more restrictive identification measures would only push remittance flows toward high-risk, unregulated and underground channels.

Date of Report: September 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R43217
Price: $29.95

To Order:

R43217.pdf   to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.