23 Feb Can Non-US Citizens File Bankruptcy?
Can non-U.S. citizens file for bankruptcy?
In short, the answer is, yes. There is no requirement that a person be a U.S. citizens to file bankruptcy in the United States. It is not even necessary that one be a legal permanent resident (“green card” holder) in order to file bankruptcy here. Any individual can file bankruptcy in the U.S. in any judicial district that has jurisdiction over the case. In general, what this means is that jurisdiction exists when one has lived in the judicial district for the greater part of the 180 days preceding the bankruptcy case. However, jurisdiction can also rest when a debtor owns property in a district. The property does not even have to be real estate, it can be personal property–like a bank account.
However, bankruptcy courts will not always exercise jurisdiction, even when they can do so. A bankruptcy court has the power to abstain from hearing a case, although this power is rarely employed. However, it has been occasionally used when a debtor has sought bankruptcy protection, not based on physical presence, but based on some insubstantial property in the district. It is quite important to consult with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer if you do not live in the United States, own property here, and wish to file bankruptcy. Exemption and jurisdiction issues can be tricky in this context.
Note: you also do not need a social security number to file bankruptcy. You can apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) with the Internal Revenue Service and use this number legally in a bankruptcy case.
Nicholas Ortiz, Boston Bankruptcy Attorney
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