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Can a Non-Citizen File for Bankruptcy Protection?


Yes. Believe it or not, the bankruptcy code does not require that you be a United States citizen to seek bankruptcy protection. However, you still must meet certain requirements that prevent people from making a pit stop in the U.S. and filing.

Do You Qualify as a Debtor?

The bankruptcy code does require that a person filing qualify as a “debtor.” There are many definitions:

  • You qualify if you reside in the United States.
  • You qualify if you are domiciled in the United States. This means that you are living in the U.S. and intend to make it your permanent home. It can be tricky to prove domicile unless you have been living in the U.S. for years.
  • You qualify if you have a business in the U.S. For example, you might own a company that is seeking Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 protection.
  • You have property in the U.S. For example, you might own a home in the country or have a bank account.

Many people in the United States legally (and illegally) will qualify for bankruptcy protection. However, before filing, you must consider other issues.

Can You Prove Your Identity?

A court will require that you prove who you are. For U.S. citizens, the easiest way to prove identity is to use your Social Security Number (SSN). If a non-citizen does not have an SSN, they could use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the IRS provides. If you cannot obtain an ITIN, you should talk with a bankruptcy attorney about your options.

Will the Bankruptcy Discharge Your Debts?

So long as you receive a discharge in the United States, no creditor that receives notice can try to collect on a debt in a United States court. However, if you are a foreign citizen, then you might have debts from lenders back home. Will they honor the discharge issued by a U.S. court?

Actually, it depends. Some countries might have agreements or treaties with the United States that require them to give effect to judgments of U.S. courts. Other countries have no agreements. Before filing for bankruptcy, you should find out how lenders will treat the discharge. If they will not honor it, then filing for bankruptcy in the U.S. could be a waste of time.

Speak to a Bankruptcy Attorney in South Florida

Nowack & Olson has been helping consumers and small business in Southern Florida for years. Our team is prepared to talk about your bankruptcy options and file the necessary paperwork to get the ball rolling. To learn more, contact us today to schedule your free consultation, 866-907-2970.

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