Deportation Fears Scare Many Indebted Immigrants Away From Bankruptcy

Oppressive debt can pile up quickly; medical bills, family emergencies or any number of life events might lead to out of the ordinary expenses. When debt becomes unmanageable, the protections of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code can be a much-needed lifeline.

Despite their need for relief, many immigrants in Chicago are reluctant to pursue it because they are worried about how a bankruptcy filing might affect their immigration status. For most immigrants, bankruptcy is an option. It is important for immigrants burdened by debt to speak with a Chicago immigration attorney who also practices in bankruptcy. Understanding bother areas of the law may be key to successfully discharging their debt.

Most Immigrants Can File for Bankruptcy

An individual does not need to be a U.S. citizen to file for bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code permits anyone who resides, has a place of business or owns property in America to take advantage of bankruptcy protections.

Generally speaking, filing for either Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy (the two main types of consumer bankruptcy) should have no effect on your status as an immigrant within the United States; filing for bankruptcy is a legal option for eliminating debt. Filing for bankruptcy is not a criminal act.

Honesty Critical to Avoid Immigration Issues

While bankruptcy itself should not impact an immigrant’s residency status, sometimes the bankruptcy process reveals conduct that could subject an immigrant to deportation. It is critical that any immigrant contemplating bankruptcy be completely honest with their attorney. An informed bankruptcy attorney, who is familiar with immigration laws, will be able to provide advice before Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gets involved.

For most immigrants, there should be no cause for concern. Bankruptcy is only a problem for those whose petitions show they have committed some sort of crime.

Anyone seeking to become a U.S. citizen must evince good moral character. While bankruptcy has no bearing on moral character, issues like fraud, tax evasion, theft, writing bad checks, domestic violence or violations of controlled substances laws can disqualify an immigrant from gaining citizenship; these acts or crimes can also subject you to deportation if you are here on a visa but are not pursuing citizenship.

Bankruptcy always involves a detailed accounting of financial records, as well as examinations under oath. It is not uncommon for past indiscretions to come up, and if an immigrant is not properly prepared, he or she could face removal from the United States.

Social Security Cards Not Required

A Social Security Number (SSN) is not required to file for bankruptcy. Immigrants can use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), if they are not eligible to obtain a social security number.

However, an immigrant who has been using a SSN that does not belong to him or her should be careful. A SSN belonging to another person should never be put on a bankruptcy petition. Not only is it impossible to discharge debt incurred on a stolen social security card, but it is illegal to use another person’s SSN. The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee checks the social security numbers of all filers. An immigrant could face real jail time for attempted fraud and may be deported.

How to File

Although it is possible to file for bankruptcy on your own, the U.S. Courts strongly discourage it. Bankruptcy is a complex process with long-term financial and legal consequences; no one should attempt to go through it without the assistance of a qualified attorney. It is especially important for noncitizens to seek out an attorney who has experience in both bankruptcy and immigration to ensure a fresh start.

Convenient Locations

In order to provide convenience for clients throughout Chicago and Northern Illinois, we have offices in the following locations: 

Chicago • Schaumburg  • Oakbrook • St. Charles • Naperville • And More


We have office locations throughout the Chicago Area:

Chicago (Downtown)


Oak Brook


All calls are routed through our Downtown office for your convenience.

Phone: 312-967-3159

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