Bankruptcy & Immigration: Why Financial Wellness Is Important

Published On: June 2, 2022Views: 875

Are There Limitations In Assessing Bankruptcy Relief To Immigrants? 

There can be, you need to have either a social security number or a registered tax identification number to file for bankruptcy.

If you have those then you’re good to go, that’s the only requirement to file in Texas, you have to have been here for at least 91 days.

What Does Bankruptcy Have To Do With Immigration?

The general rule of thumb is that a bankruptcy will not impact eligibility for immigration cases, there was some nonsense during the Trump administration, and the public charge rule where immigrants were having to disclose their whole financial history just when they were applying for a Green Card, that rule has gone away.

If you know anyone who has the intersection of the two issues of immigration and bankruptcy we are the people to talk to because at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law we have both experienced bankruptcy and immigration lawyers.

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We bring the expertise of the overlap of these two practice areas to people in a way that other firms can’t provide.

Bankruptcy is not a problem for someone who’s an immigrant, regardless of whether they’re undocumented, they’re applying for relief, they’re getting a Work Permit, they’re getting a Green Card, they’re applying for citizenship, it’s okay if you need to apply for bankruptcy.

Talk to us if you’re considering doing that because we are the people who can tell you what consequences there may be for you if any, either financial or immigration questions.

The bankruptcy code has certain protections for people who are filing bankruptcy no matter their documentation status, and that has to do with the fact that you can’t be fired from your job because you filed bankruptcy, you can’t be denied any of the immigration protections because you filed a bankruptcy.

There’s no retribution involved with bankruptcy, it happens, and no one even has to know about it if you don’t want to tell them.

We’re charged as lawyers to zealously protect the interests of our clients, and we take that very very seriously. We’re here ferociously protecting our people, not just your safety and your status but protecting your belongings, protecting your assets.

Bankruptcy doesn’t mean that you have to automatically liquidate everything you own, you get to keep a whole bunch of stuff, usually, all of it.

If A Non-Citizen Files For Bankruptcy, Can They Get Deported?

Not, that is not going to trigger anything, ICE will not be notified, it’s not going to initiate any removal proceedings, that will not happen.

You do not have to worry about getting deported if you file for bankruptcy, just take that out of the list of worries that you have on your brain.

If you are undocumented and worried about being deported and you’re also considering bankruptcy you’ve already got enough to think about, do not worry about getting deported.

Can I Petition My Spouse If I Am Currently In The Process Of Filing For Bankruptcy?

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When someone petitions for their spouse they have to show that they’re earning a certain amount to support their spouse.

They fill out the I-864, they show their income, and they have to earn more than 125 percent of the poverty guidelines.

You show what you’re earning by your check stubs and your tax returns, you don’t have to disclose a bankruptcy in that application.

If you are earning less than you need to be the sole sponsor, in any case, you just get a joint sponsor and it could be any other friend, relative, or someone else who’s willing to sign up.

It’s quite common for our clients if they’re self-employed, they have a business and their income looks low because their expenses are so high, there are a lot more people studying, there are lots of reasons that people can’t be the sole financial sponsor in a petitioning case but bankruptcy is not a factor.

Can I File For Bankruptcy If My Debts Are Outside The U.S.?

There’s a real hesitance for people who have that kind of debt to file bankruptcy, it has the effect of depending on the country where the debt was incurred, they cannot collect from you as long as you’re in the United States.

What each country’s laws are for collection activity is up to that country, and if there’s a treaty agreement with the United States and lots of other factors that are involved just very involved but for the most part yes, if you have debt, then absolutely you can file.

We worked on a case where the debt was primarily in the United Kingdom, and it was millions of dollars, this was a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

This person had moved to the United States, had been for quite a while, then he filed a Chapter 11 and had the effect of discharging the debt in the UK.

Why Is There So Much Stigma Against Bankruptcy?

It has been a real concerted marketing effort by lenders, by banks since the mid-1970s.

The approach has been by lenders that it is a moral failing: how dare you think about discharging your credit card debt when you promised you would pay, shame on you.

It was a marketing campaign so that they would shame people out of bankruptcy.

Once you have let’s say medical debt, or credit card debt, if you can’t pay it with them, they will often sell that debt to a collection agency, and collection agencies have more rules now than they used to.

They hire people who embrace a real strong-arm tactic: we’re gonna send you to jail if you file a bankruptcy, or if you don’t pay us we’re gonna sue you, and then you won’t be able to do anything, really scary things that are flat out lies.

It’s been a truly concerted effort to scare people away from their legal, moral and financial right to file a bankruptcy.

Why Is There So Much Stigma Against Immigration?

It comes down to fear and a scarcity mindset that people who are afraid of immigrants believe that their life will be worse and that things will be taken from them, when in fact we know that the opposite is true.

Immigrants are more likely to start businesses, they bring more jobs, and they bring more to the economy.

The United States is amazing and there is so much opportunity for immigration, that is our country, and people who are afraid, suffering, and feeling miserable in their own lives, and blame others, point the finger at immigrants and the politicians who exploit that because they know it is a powerful motivator for people, like Greg Abbott.

Financial Wellness: Taking Care Of Finances 

When you look at how people spend their money, and where they allocate their resources, that tells you what their values are in a heartbeat, you just look at where they’re spending the money and it tells you what is important to you.

Financial wellness typically it’s just living within your means which is a really easy thing to say and not as easy to do.

It’s important to track what you spend, we think that’s probably the very first thing that everybody should do.

It’s normal to be shocked when you track what you spent, if you had asked me before I started tracking how much I spent on dining out I was off by 750 dollars, so I had money going out the door that I didn’t even think I was spending.

There are all kinds of tools to decrease spending where you don’t want it to be so that you can reach that living within your means.

If you don’t have the money coming through the door no amount of cutting back but if my income was reduced then Starbucks would have to go.

If you don’t have the money coming through the door, then sometimes there are ideas like taking on gig work, delivering pizzas a few nights a week, doing door dash, things like that.

Financial wellness can also be a huge part of bankruptcy, so if you are sending a lot of money out the door for credit cards, medical debt, personal loans, or a car that’s not working for you anymore, then just stop that bleeding.

Is a very useful tool to get you back on your feet to file bankruptcy, or not, we have counseled people away from bankruptcy and thought about how if your budget is that way, then you can avoid this.

Just to summarize, make sure you know what you’re spending, that’s helpful, and then are your expenditures reflecting where you want to be in life?

If retiring is a huge priority for you, then maybe spending 400 a month on your credit card fees is not going to help you towards that retirement goal, or if you love to travel or you want to save for whatever it costs to get a Green Card, all these different things.

Make sure what your budget looks like is helping you meet that goal.

That’s something that we do, that’s kind of built into bankruptcy that helps you with financial education.

We love to talk with our clients about what their budgets really and truly look like, we’re not here to shame anybody but we want to guide people to help them reach their financial goals.

Here at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is something that we have never seen another firm do with their bankruptcy department, and that is a 60-day follow-up after your case is discharged.

We want to know how you are doing on those taxes, are there any resources that we can offer you to continue to help you reach your financial goal?

Lincoln-Goldfinch Law & Clients

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Whether an immigration or bankruptcy case is not an option for any of our clients or is not right for them, we will be transparent, that is something you can always count on for us, that is our commitment to you, and we will be honest with you.

We’re not going to just sell you service because we want to sell a service, we have to tell people all the time on the immigration side that we can’t help them.

We believe that that is a service, when you walk away with the knowledge that restructuring your debt or not filing this petition is the best move for you at this moment, you can count on us for that.

Financial wellness means just observing, making a financial plan because you want to decide where your money’s going based on your priorities, if it’s retirement if it’s travel if it’s kept closed like you get to decide that, and then you make the budget and you reassess.

Your budget’s rarely going to exactly match up to reality, that’s something that people need to be aware of.

You do not have to feel shame around a budget mismatch, observe it and make decisions.

What can be a rattling and unsettling feeling about money is that we bring shame into it and there’s no shame, this is just observing our behavior and making decisions based on what our goals and our dreams are, that is our goal at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law.

In case you have additional questions about your finances, budget, or your specific case, you can contact us at (855) 502-0555. After a short 10-minute evaluation of your case over the phone, we will let you know what options you have. You can also follow us on our social networks so as not to miss our weekly transmissions via FacebookYouTube & Twitch.

Frequently Asked Questions About Financial Wellness

Not, that is not going to trigger anything, ICE will not be notified, it’s not going to initiate any removal proceedings, that will not happen. You do not have to worry about getting deported if you file for bankruptcy, just take that out of the list of worries that you have on your brain.

There’s a real hesitance for people who have that kind of debt to file bankruptcy, it has the effect of depending on the country where the debt was incurred, they cannot collect from you as long as you’re in the United States.

The approach has been by lenders that it is a moral failing: how dare you think about discharging your credit card debt when you promised you would pay, shame on you. It was a marketing campaign so that they would shame people out of bankruptcy

About the Author: Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

I am the managing partner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, I received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. My project served the detained families seeking asylum. After my fellowship, I entered private immigration practice. My firm offers family-based immigration, such as greencards and naturalization, deportation defense, and humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. Everyone at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law is bilingual, has a connection to our cause, and has demonstrated a history of activism for immigrants. To us, our work is not just a job. After the pandemic we began offering bankruptcy services in addition to immigration I realized how much lack of information there is in financial literacy resources in Spanish.

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