I am frequently asked how filing for bankruptcy affects a person’s immigration status. If you are a legal resident of the United States, you can file for bankruptcy. You must demonstrate “good moral character” in order to become a United States citizen or a permanent resident. Filing for bankruptcy itself is not considered a lack of “good moral character.” Filing for bankruptcy is not a crime, and doing so is not cause for denying your immigration petition.
The commission of a bankruptcy crime could expose you to a charge of “bad moral character.” In bankruptcy, you are required to tell the court about everything you own and everyone you owe money to. You have to disclose the amount of income you earn, and accurately describe your regular monthly expenses. You must attend a bankruptcy hearing known as a “meeting of creditors.” For more information about the “meeting of creditors,” see my article entitled, “What to Do at Your Meeting of Creditors.” You will be under oath at your “meeting of creditors,” and you must answer the questions truthfully.
Testifying falsely or failing to disclose information are examples of bankruptcy crimes which could be interpreted as “bad moral character” by your immigration case agent. Committing a bankruptcy crime could cause your immigration petition to be denied. My advice to everyone meeting with me to discuss their rights in bankruptcy, whether they are in the immigration process or not, is to tell it like it is. Do not avoid telling me what is going on because you are worried about how the situation looks or how it sounds. I will walk you through your options and tell you how to avoid trouble.
The above information is a general overview and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Undocumented immigrants should proceed with caution, as the filing of a bankruptcy is a matter of public record. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, the best thing to do is call our office at 248-557-3645 and schedule a free consultation so you can receive advice which is tailored to your specific circumstances.
By: Michael Benkstein, Esq.
Managing Attorney, Bankruptcy Department
The Law Offices of Joumana Kayrouz, PLLC