Can I file Bankruptcy if I’m not a Citizen, not a Permanent Resident, or if I’m an Undocumented Immigrant in the United States?

Many non-resident aliens in New York City will qualify for bankruptcy assistance even if they lack a green card, F1 visa or other legal residency status in the United States.  Unauthorized immigrants and legal residents of the United States may file for Bankruptcy in New York City as if they were American citizens.  There is nothing in the Bankruptcy Code that says a debtor must be a citizen or even a legal resident of the United States in order to file.  Generally speaking, bankruptcy is available to any person that lives in or owns something in the United States.

According to 11 U.S. Code § 109, “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.”  A debtor is not defined by their immigration or citizenship status.  Bankruptcy law is tricky in this area and you will need to consult a bankruptcy attorney, but even if you do not have a green card or worker’s visa you can still be eligible for bankruptcy protection in New York City.  By definition of the bankruptcy code a debtor could be an undocumented immigrant or even someone who doesn’t live in the United States.  It’s possible for non-residents living in a foreign country to file bankruptcy in America as long as they own a business or asset in the United States.

Non US Citizens are also benefitted greatly by the provisions of Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code instituted along with many other changes in 2005.  If you are facing an ancillary bankruptcy proceeding in another country, the United States Bankruptcy Code permits you to file bankruptcy protection in the United States as well so as to protect your American assets from foreign creditors.   The United States will recognize foreign bankruptcy cases and work with the other country involved to ensure a foreign trustee does not run off with a debtor’s American assets.

If you are hoping to become an American Citizen or legal resident, bankruptcy will not hurt your chances of obtaining citizenship, or getting a green card or F1 Visa in the near future either.  While Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may use a bankruptcy case to show an applicant’s bad character, they will usually only be successful if the case was filed fraudulently or in bad faith.  Bankruptcy laws are complicated, but if you are working with a qualified attorney in New York City you will have no problem filing your bankruptcy correctly and honestly so as to avoid any problems with a future worker’s visa or citizenship application.

If you are underwater financially and already struggling to make ends meet, it doesn’t matter if you are an American citizen or not.  You are eligible for a fresh start through bankruptcy.  American courts may even be able to help protect your American assets at risk in ancillary proceedings in other countries regardless of your permanent country of residence or country of citizenship.  There are a lot of great people from all over the world in New York City that need relief from their debts.  Giving people from all walks of life a fresh start so they can go on to lead productive lives and help society is what bankruptcy protection is all about.  If you are a non-citizen, or undocumented immigrant in New York City that needs immediate relief from your debts please contact the Law offices of William Waldner online or at 212.244.2882 to arrange a free consultation.  We only practice bankruptcy law and maintain a 99% Chapter 7 discharge record in New York City as of 8/31/16.

This article is intended for educational purposes only.  By reading this no attorney-client privilege has been created.