Can You File Bankruptcy If You Are Not a U.S. Citizen?
April 15, 2013
The simple answer is yes, you may file bankruptcy in the United States regardless of your citizenship status.
Who May Be a “Debtor” in Bankruptcy Court?
The Bankruptcy Code places no citizenship limits on who may file bankruptcy. Section 109(a) states that “only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States… may be a debtor… .” for filing bankruptcy. “Person” is simply defined to include an “individual” (as well as a “partnership and corporation”). So there is no requirement about needing to be a citizen, or even to being legally in the country. So everyone, citizen or not, legal or not, can file bankruptcy.
Have a “Domicile… in the United States”
To have a “domicile” simply means being physically present in one location with the intention of making that place your present home. Generally the longer you has been in one place and the more you have put down roots—such as signing an apartment rental agreement, getting a state driver’s license—the easier to show that you’ve established a domicile.
Have “Property in the United States”
If you have any meaningful amount of property–a bank account or other kinds of financial accounts, a vehicle, personal possessions—that alone appears to be enough to qualify as a debtor.
The bankruptcy filing documents ask for a Social Security number, although the Bankruptcy Code does not explicitly require it. If you have a valid Social Security number appropriately issued by the Social Security Administration, use it. Otherwise, get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (“ITIN”) from the IRS, and use that. The “IRS issues ITINs to foreign nationals and others who have federal tax reporting or filing requirements and do not qualify for SSNs.”
You will also need to show proof of your identity at the Meeting of Creditors about a month after your case is filed. The reason for this is for the bankruptcy trustee to be able to verify that you—the person answering the questions under oath–is a real person, the one who filed the bankruptcy documents. This is intended to prevent identity frauds of the bankruptcy system. Proof of identity usually requires two documents: one showing your SSN or ITIN—such as the original Social Security card it that’s available, or some other paper received from the government or from an employer showing the number; plus 2) some form of photo identification—such as a driver’s license or passport.
If you are not a citizen but meet these conditions, you can file for bankruptcy.