Can an immigrant file for bankruptcy?

Yes, an immigrant can file for bankruptcy, whether or not such immigrant’s presence is legal or illegal in the United States.

Section 109 of the Bankruptcy Code defines who may become a debtor in bankruptcy. Subsection (a) of Section 109 details that any person that resides, or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, may become a debtor in bankruptcy. The section does not limit the availability of bankruptcy protection to anyone with citizenship status, residency status, or even as much as a social security number.

In other words, as long as a natural person either lives, works, owns a business, or any type of asset (tangible or intangible) in the United States, such person can file for bankruptcy. Such natural person does not need to be legally residing in the United States or have a legal immigration status, does not need to present a valid social security number, or a valid driver’s license or U.S. government issued identification in order to file for bankruptcy. The only requirement is that the debtor in bankruptcy proves that he or she has either resided in the United States, or has asset in the United States.

Asset may come in all shapes and forms, case law has not limited the type of assets that a person must have in order to satisfy the requirement of becoming a debtor in bankruptcy. Asset does not need to be substantial, a bank account with a small balance will usually suffice. Moreover, asset does not need to be tangible or immediately accessible, copyright or trademark reserved with the United States Library of Congress is sufficient to satisfy the asset requirement.

As long as the immigrant, whether legal or illegal, has asset in the United States, he/she can seek any chapter of bankruptcy protection that best suits him or her, whether it’s Chapter 7 Liquidation, Chapter 13 Personal Reorganization, or Chapter 11 Reorganization.

Aside from a natural person, a foreign business with asset and business presence in the United States can seek bankruptcy protection as well, as long as such business is not a foreign insurance company engaged in such business in the United States.

To find out more about being an immigrant and filing for bankruptcy, contact Kristy Qiu, Esq., a knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale Immigration attorney & Bankruptcy attorney.