Applicants must properly identify themselves, usually at the welfare office reception desk, before they can begin the application process. Checking identification is essential to proper eligibility determination, especially to avoid duplication of cases and to tap into databases for eligibility verification. When clerical and eligibility workers cannot properly identify applicants, it may result in delays, denial of benefits, or improper eligibility determination.
In general, eligibility workers in all the study sites appeared flexible about accepting various forms of identification within accepted parameters. The most common forms of identification are drivers' licenses, passports and U.S. birth certificates. But in Dallas, eligibility workers also accept Mexican birth certificates and voter identification cards from non-citizens applying for benefits for their children or other household members. In Raleigh applicants sometimes present school IDs, other forms of picture identification, and library cards; eligibility workers there sometimes accept mail addressed to the applicant. However, as described above, those non-citizens applying for benefits for themselves must provide proof of immigration status.
In some sites, particularly those in which a large share of immigrants have arrived recently and may be undocumented (Raleigh and Sedalia), caseworkers reported difficulty in properly identifying immigrants and their household members. Part of the confusion stems from the workers' lack of familiarity with new immigrant populations. For instance, some Latino immigrants have two last names, and workers may misconstrue the first last name to be a middle name. In other cases, immigrants may work under an assumed name, and thus may present identification or other documents with more than one name to the welfare office. In sites that have been dealing with undocumented populations for a longer time, workers are aware of these issues and often directly ask applicants to disclose any and all names they use.