One doesn’t need to be a U.S. citizen to file bankruptcy. In fact, people in the country illegally can file too, but that’s uncommon and should be discouraged.
Between these two categories, though, are non-citizens who are in the country legally. These people may be concerned that filing bankruptcy may affect their immigration status. Short answer: It won’t.
The section of the U.S. Code that contains the bankruptcy law, Title 11 Section 109(a), simply reads, “[O]nly 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.” As with citizenship, the law makes no mention of immigration status, just residents.
There are a few more relevant points immigrants considering bankruptcy should be concerned about.
Bankruptcy documents do not require petitioners to disclose their immigration status — though petitioners must provide identification to prove they are who they say they are to the bankruptcy court and their creditors. Proof of identity always includes a social security number and a photo id. Those who use fraudulent identification are committing perjury, which bankruptcy courts don’t like. This shouldn’t be a problem for legal immigrants.
The only things that affect immigration are criminal activity and other evidence of negative moral character. Filing bankruptcy is legal and not immoral, therefore there is no problem. However, some credit-related acts are considered crimes, specifically variants of fraud. Those who write bad checks, use someone else’s credit cards without authorization, commit perjury on legal documents are punishable under the law. Such actions may prejudice bankruptcy courts against them.
I’ll conclude by adding that bankruptcy protects people in the U.S. who have debt they cannot pay, and as a result the bankruptcy system is more accommodating than some other government services. Moreover, those seeking citizenship will find that the U.S. government favors those who keep their finances in order by filing bankruptcy, over those who take on too much debt and then require public assistance.
For more questions about bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced bankruptcy attorney Brooklyn NY Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.