Do I have to be a citizen to file a bankruptcy case?

22 Jun Do I have to be a citizen to file a bankruptcy case?

Clients frequently ask us if they must be a citizen of the United States to file a bankruptcy case in the United States. No – you don’t have to be a citizen to file a bankruptcy case in the United States.

You do have to be a resident of the place where you plan to file your bankruptcy case for the greatest part of the last 180 days. This usually means that you have lived someplace just over 3 months unless you have been moving around a lot.

Another way you could file a bankruptcy case in the United States is if you own property in the place where you are plan to file. The reason for this is that bankruptcy jurisdiction derives from property – it’s called “in rem” jurisdiction. Don’t worry about legal formalities here.

You really need a bona fide residence to file a bankruptcy case in the United States if your case is based on residency and not property. A few years ago, some Canadian insurance men stayed a few nights at a Niagara Falls, NY motel to try to establish bankruptcy jurisdiction in New York. They wanted to avoid insurance contracts with Lloyds of London. This ploy was a dismal failure. So don’t try it yourself.

Even if you’re not a citizen, you’ll still have to establish your identity. Many non-citizens have social security cards – even if they are not authorized to work. Use the social security card if you have one. Other non-citizens may not even have a social security card.

Never ever use a false social security card. It’s a crime and you will be found out – almost certainly. If that happens, you may not be able to stay in the United States and you may never achieve your immigration or citizenship goals.

Instead, get and use an “Individual Tax Number” or ITIN to file your bankruptcy case. You also need a photo identification card. If you can’t get one locally, your national consulate may issue such a card to you – like the Mexican Matricula. Such an identification card will be acceptable for most bankruptcy purposes.

No matter where you’re from, Lakelaw helps people and businesses with bankruptcy cases in Illinois and Wisconsin.

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Jay S. Fleischman is a bankruptcy lawyer with offices in Los Angeles and New York. He can often be found on Google+ and Twitter, where he shares information about consumer protection issues and personal finance.
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