Do you need to be a U.S. citizen to file bankruptcy?

No.

But if you don’t have a social security number and/or are not a legal U.S. citizen, then you’re going to need an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) for us to put on the documents and show to the trustee.

The U.S. Code clarifies who can be a debtor:

11 U.S. Code § 109 – Who may be a debtor

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, 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.

It simply says “a person” who resides in the U.S. or has property in the U.S.  It doesn’t require U.S. citizenship to be protected under the U.S. federal bankruptcy laws.

The real problem occurs when we have to fill out the bankruptcy court document entitled “Form 21:  Statement of Social Security Number.”  If you don’t have a valid social security number, then we need to use your ITIN.  If you don’t have an ITIN, then you’ll need to go to a local Social Security office to get one.

So, no, you don’t need to be a U.S. citizen, but you’ll at least need an ITIN before we can file the case.

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