Bankruptcy and Non-Citizens

Bankruptcy in the United States is a difficult situation, and if you’re confronting it as a non-citizen, you’ll be facing some unique challenges.  Even though it’s legal for a noncitizen to file for bankruptcy, there are some pitfalls to avoid if you want the process to go more smoothly and not damage your chances of living in the US. Because there is so much at stake for most non-citizens, it is a good idea to read about and follow up on every potential pitfall.

A top concern that noncitizens have when it comes to bankruptcy is whether or not it will jeopardize their chances of obtaining permanent residency or citizenship in the US.  In general, filing for bankruptcy shouldn’t hurt your odds of getting a green card or becoming a citizen.  However, it could harm your chances if it reveals something about you that could be judged as a lack of ‘good character,’ seeing as ‘good character’ is a quality favored by immigration authorities as they review your application for citizenship or permanent residency.

For instance, filing for bankruptcy because of fiscal irresponsibility tends to look worse than filing because of an unanticipated medical catastrophe that landed you in debt.  In general, if it looks as if you were careless with your money, or, even worse, lost your money for unethical or borderline illegal reasons, then you’ll be seen in a much more unfavorable light. Another issue that frequently surfaces in bankruptcy is borderline fraud. This consists of acts that are not clearly illegal but are flagged by the U.S. Trustee’s office.  A common example is someone that charges up every credit card with luxury purchases in the year before the bankruptcy filing. While that activity will not subject anyone to criminal charges, it is considered a red flag in a bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy trustee’s subsequent actions on your bankruptcy case may create a paper trail of character issues for your immigration case.

Of course, if you commit and are convicted of any illegal acts, you’ll severely damage your chances of obtaining citizenship or even remaining in the country.  It’s important then that when you file for bankruptcy, you fill out all the forms accurately; don’t lie about your citizenship status or sign your name to any other false information.

Furthermore, as you look for ways to repay your debts and restore your credit, make sure that all your actions are legal.  Don’t take out loans from disreputable sources or resort to illegal activities to obtain cash.  If you suspect that creditors are taking advantage of you, don’t hesitate to seek legal help.

When it comes to handling the bankruptcy process, you’ll need both a good  bankruptcy lawyer, and an immigration lawyer to ensure you don’t trigger negative consequences by accident. With the assistance of an expert lawyer, you’ll be able to review all aspects of your situation, see that you’re getting fair treatment from the courts and from creditors, and make sure that you’re taking all the proper legal steps as you file for bankruptcy.  In this way, you’ll increase your chances of remaining in the US and getting your applications for permanent residency or citizenship approved.


Howard Iken is a Florida attorney specializing in divorce, custody, criminal defense, and bankruptcy. We have a dedicated team of attorneys working out of six Florida offices located throughout Central and West Central Florida. I can be reached at 800-469-3486. Our general practice website can be visited at . Our family and custody law website can be found at

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