Many of us are facing financial difficulty, and for immigrants the situation is often worse. Reports estimate that there are somewhere between 7 and 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States. One area of the law where an immigrant’s rights often come into question is bankruptcy. Do non-citizens, or illegal immigrants have the right to file bankruptcy?
The short answer is maybe. The Bankruptcy Code determines who may be a “debtor,” and therefore file a petition for bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code pronounces clearly that “…only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title” [11 U.S.C. Section 109(a)]. The term “person” incorporates individual, partnership, and corporation… [11 U.S.C. Section 101(a)(41)]. The bottom line is there is no requirement of citizenship in the bankruptcy code.
Therefore, non-citizens and even illegal immigrants MAY file bankruptcy assuming they can present the appropriate identification to the bankruptcy trustee, including a valid social security card or an individual taxpayer identification number. Thus, if you are an illegal immigrant you must have paid federal income taxes in order to file with the Bankruptcy Court, or have a valid TIN issued by the federal government. It is tempting to use a false identification to file, but that may lead to a denial of bankruptcy relief, as well as the bringing of criminal charges. Note that if criminal charges are brought against you as an illegal alien, or as a lawful permanent resident, you may be deported. In any case, contact an Arizona bankruptcy attorney to make sure that you can legally file bankruptcy despite being in the United States illegally.
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