You Can File For Bankruptcy Even If You Are Not a Citizen of the United States
Richard Fonfrias, J.D.
Chicago's Financial Rescue & Bankruptcy Lawyer
Fonfrias Law Group, LLC
Here are common misconceptions about bankruptcy and citizenship:
Misconception #1: If you file for bankruptcy, you cannot become a U.S. citizen in the future. Not true.
A bankruptcy filing free of any fraud will not hurt you with the ICE. Bad character issues come up only when a bankruptcy is filed fraudulently. Always, speak with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to determine your situation. He will make sure that your bankruptcy filing is accurate and truthful, so it will not affect your citizenship application. Immigration is reviewed on a case-by-case basis so, in addition to speaking with a bankruptcy lawyer, talk with an immigration lawyer who is familiar with these issues. A dedicated bankruptcy lawyer will insure that your bankruptcy filing will not hurt your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen in the future.
Misconception #2: You must be a citizen of the United States to file for bankruptcy.
Not true. As surprising as it sounds, you do not have to be a U.S. citizen to file for bankruptcy. Title 11 of the U.S. Code says, "Only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title." This means you can file for bankruptcy if
- you are a U.S. citizen who lives in the United States;
- you are a U.S. citizen who does not live in the United States, but who owns a home, business or property in the United States; or
- you are not a U.S. citizen, but you live in the United States and own a home, business or property.
Your bankruptcy documents do not ask whether you are a U.S. citizen. The law allows you to file for bankruptcy if you live in the United States - or if you own a home, business or property in the United States. The only requirement for non-U.S. citizens is that you prove your identity with a government-issued photo ID card and either a Social Security card or Individual Tax Identification Number. Also you must have lived in Illinois for most of the past 180 days. If you live in Illinois but are not a citizen of the United States, speak to an Illinois bankruptcy attorney first, before filing, to learn all the details about bankruptcy for the non U.S. citizen.
This means you can file for bankruptcy even if you are not a U.S. citizen.
Misconception #3: Your U.S. immigration status will change because of your bankruptcy.
Not true. Many people worry that a bankruptcy filing when not a U.S. citizen will jeopardize their immigration status. This is not true. Your naturalization application does not ask whether you have filed for bankruptcy. Even so, you should consult both an experienced bankruptcy lawyer as well as an immigration lawyer if considering filing for bankruptcy without US citizenship.
Misconception #4: Bankruptcy is dishonest. Not true. Most people honestly want to pay their bills, but sometimes things happen that make it impossible. Maybe you lost your job. Or you had an accident so you couldn't work. Or you had high medical bills that created debt. Bankruptcy is a legal right that is provided for in the United States Constitution. Bankruptcy protects honest people from harassment, lawsuits, wage garnishment and other harmful creditor actions. Bankruptcy allows you to have a fresh start and a chance to get out from under your debt.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you should discuss your case with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer - and an immigration attorney. In your situation, both lawyers may need to work together to protect your legal rights when filing for bankruptcy as a non U.S. citizen.