NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Two years ago New Brunswick became one of a handful of municipalities across New Jersey that issued their own municipal identification cards.

"Very important. Very useful," said Julie Jerome, coordinator of services for the New Brunswick PRAB, also known as the Puerto Rican Action Board. "I always advise my clients to go and get it," Jerome said.

The city requires people to file several documents to show their identity and that they live in the city. Among the documents they can be used include a passport, foreign driver's license, foreign military ID, foreign birth certificate, utility bill with name and address, original document from a hospital, church, social service agency or shelter, or notarized rental lease.

Sign Up for E-News

These cards are used when people must deal with registering children for city schools, going to either of the two city hospitals, all municipal buildings, city police and six banks in New Brunswick, city officials said.

They are also accepted at city food pantries, Jerome said. New Brunswick has more than 20 food pantries, many serving specific neighborhoods.

Possibly the largest benefit comes from dealing with banks and other financial businesses.

With the card that bears a person's name, address and date of birth, they can open a bank account and get an ITIN number or Individual taxpayer identification number that banks require for reporting to the federal Internal Revenue Service.

Jerome pointed to one other important group of businesses that are accepting the cards: mortgage lenders, the agencies that can enable families to buy a home.

PRAB had pushed for the city to issue the municipal cards. Jerome has seen many people who have no identifying paperwork except a passport, which is a document that most guard carefully in their homes to protect it from being lost. 

"I tell (clients) that carrying an identification card is all you need," Jerome said.

She has advised dozens of people to get cards, many who were not immigrants but had no other officials documents, such as people with disabilities who never had a driver's license, or senior citizens who no longer drive.

About 50 percent of the nearly 60,000 city residents are from the Latino or Hispanic community, with many from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Mexico, according to the 2010 census.

New Brunswick officials say they are working to get other business to accept the cards.

Elizabeth, Newark, Asbury Park and Dover and Roselle also issue municipal ID cards