A question that’s commonly asked about New York bankruptcy is whether a debtor needs a Social Security number to file. Debtors ask because they sometimes run across the bankruptcy form title, “Your Statement About Your Social Security Numbers” (B 121), which asks debtors to list their current and prior Social Security numbers. The new bankruptcy form B 101, the voluntary filing petition that nearly all debtors complete, also asks for Social Security numbers. As a result, it’s unsurprising that debtors without Social Security numbers might be anxious about filing New York bankruptcy, and it’s a common situation because so many New Yorkers are immigrants.
The good news is that a Social Security number isn’t necessary to file bankruptcy. Moreover, debtors should also be aware that the forms ask for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) as well. The bankruptcy forms cover the vast majority of debtors by these options, even non-Americans.
Non-citizens are free to file bankruptcy, including debtors who do not legally reside in the U.S. In fact, the legality of a debtor’s residency isn’t even questioned. Non-citizens can also rest assured that filing bankruptcy in itself will not affect their immigration status, although the same cannot be said about the circumstances giving rise to their filings. However, unauthorized immigrants are more likely to run into trouble because of the documentation they do have, not what they don’t, e.g. fraudulent Social Security numbers. Providing such information to a bankruptcy court is perjury and therefore grounds for dismissal.
The part of the Bankruptcy Code that’s relevant to nationality and residency here is section 109(a), which states, “[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.” The only caveat here is not in the Bankruptcy Code but in the parts of federal law that determine the appropriate venue for bankruptcy cases, 28 U.S.C. 1408(1), which requires debtors to reside for the previous 180 days in the federal district in which they intend to file.
Bankruptcy’s identity requirements are usually fairly easy to meet, and they will be verified at the 341 meeting. Debtors who are concerned about establishing their identities would be wise to consult with an experienced New York bankruptcy lawyer beforehand.
For answers to 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 Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.