Will Bankruptcy Prevent Me from Becoming a US Citizen?

New York City is synonymous with immigration, and famous for being the place many people took their first steps into America.  The United States was built on immigrants and you need only come to New York City to understand why America is known as a “melting pot.”  Clients with permanent US residence status often ask us if filing for bankruptcy will prevent them from becoming a US citizen.  The answer is no.  People fall on hard times for lots of different reasons and bankruptcy laws exist to help people find a fresh start, not to punish them when they can’t pay their bills.  Bankruptcy protection is available to non-us citizens and should have no affect on a citizenship application in the United States.

When applying to become a naturalized US citizen the question of “good moral character” arises.  Financial problems alone are not enough to disqualify an applicant from having “good moral character.” Immigration laws in the United States do not exactly say what “good moral character” means.  It is loosely defined but the law does make an effort to tell us what “good moral character” is not.   In other words, there are certain things that can automatically disqualify you from US citizenship.   If you have been convicted of certain crimes, or if you have not been paying your taxes you may be denied citizenship automatically.   The application for naturalization will ask specifically about taxes, but does not ask about any other financial issues including a possible bankruptcy in your past.  There isn’t much that can be done about a felony conviction, but if you are behind on your taxes you will need to repay any back taxes or show that you are working with the IRS before your citizenship is approved.

Beyond any criminal or tax issues the determination of “good moral character” is up to the opinion of the immigration worker assigned to your application.  The general standard is that you should be as “moral” and upstanding as the typical citizen in your community.  You don’t have to be a saint to fit in, and remember that millions of American citizens file for bankruptcy protection every year.  The case worker assigned to you must act reasonably.  Since bankruptcy is every American’s right, filing bankruptcy alone can’t reasonably say anything about an applicant’s morality.

Bankruptcy is a complicated process.  If you are a non-US citizen that needs to file for bankruptcy you will need an attorney to assist you.   While bankruptcy alone cannot disqualify you from citizenship, filing for bankruptcy and becoming a citizen at the same time can be a delicate process.  If you need an attorney familiar with bankruptcy filings for non-US citizens and live in New York City contact the Law Offices of William Waldner online or at 212.244.2882 to arrange a free bankruptcy consultation today.  We only practice bankruptcy law and maintain a 99% Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge record in New York City as of 8/31/16.

**** DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for educational purposes only. By reading no attorney-client relationship has been created. Prior results do not guarantee a similar result for future clients.