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Can Undocumented Immigrants File Bankruptcy? Sources Say Yes, But Be Careful.

Whether an illegal or undocumented immigrant in the United States may file for Bankruptcy apparently hinges on whether or not the immigrant has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) according to attorney Drake Shunneson.

Shunneson provides that a Social Security number or ITIN must be present inorder to proceed with the bankruptcy. Obviously, many immigrants are unable to obtain a SSN because of their illegal status. Thus, obtaining an ITIN is typically the only other way to obtain a discharge of debt through bankruptcy.helpinghand

Roughly more than half of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country have ITIN’s. Many of these ITIN holders file their income taxes each year despite their potential illegal status. The road to citizenship often rests on proof of paying taxes and an ITIN would provide the only identification number to do so. Thus, it may be presumed that only some undocumented immigrants in this country may file for bankruptcy depending on whether they file taxes or at least have an ITIN.

Shunneson also cautions against filing for bankruptcy even if the immigrant has an ITIN if there is a pending lawsuit against them. Pending lawsuits, depending on the nature of the suit, may prevent continuation of the bankruptcy process and may open up potential issues with Immigration authorities. It is advised to speak to an attorney if this is the case.

Regardless, there are many reasons why an undocumented immigrant should obtain an ITIN. For tax purposes, you may receive your federal withholding back. You may be required to show proof of paying taxes for purposes of the Naturalization process in a N-400 Citizenship application, and, if in dire financial straights, an ITIN may qualify you, even if illegal, to receive a discharge of your debts.

Obtaining an ITIN number is free and easy. You should caution against paying someone to receive an ITIN because the process is so simple and free.

You may find out more about how to receive an ITIN on the IRS website here:


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March 26, 2013 · 2:54 am

Free Money is Not Free: The Perils of Unsecured Credit Card Debt

Dude, so like, wouldn’t it be totally sweet to get money for free? All you need is pre-approval for a credit card and swipe away! What are the eligibility requirements for pre-approval? Nothing! Too good to be true? Of course!

Check out Demitri Martin on the Daily Show and his tongue-in-cheeck mockery of the credit card “wealth” mentality.

Joking aside, credit card debt is increasingly common under the current economic environment and the temptation sometimes too much to bare. The most common type of consumer debt is unsecured credit card debt which is the most common factor leading to Chapter 7 consumer bankruptcy.

Mr. Martin humorously mocked credit card companies and their appeal towards recent graduates through marketing ploys. While more regulations and laws are currently being passed by Congress regarding deceptive credit card and banking practices, it is best to keep your wits about you and common sense with you at all times.

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Resources, News Sources and People Who Can Help You Through Bankruptcy

This has been a long time coming. The first post on a blog meant to educate the public on bankruptcy matters and keep bankruptcy professionals up to date on hot issues within the wonderful (and not so wonderful) world of bankruptcy.

For starters, I simply want to say welcome. And nothing says “welcome” like a listing of public sources that may help you find your path towards financial recovery.

Before I post some really helpful links, I must disclaim a few things.  I am in no way a lawyer (yet!) nor am I providing legal advice in violation of any professional code of ethics (California or American Bar Association). Think of me as a legal secretary guiding you to other sources that MAY be able to give you direct legal advice about your specific situation. Comments I make regarding any articles posted, are only that–General comments and opinions.  And with that, hopefully the links below may be helpful. Please check back to this first post for updated links as I will add more links over time.

Links For Consumers, Lawyers and Judges

American Bankruptcy Institute:  This is the Mecca of all things bankruptcy. Consumers, lawyers and bankruptcy judges use ABI as the go-to place for publications, events, news, statistics, Pro-bono Locators, and live webinars.

ABI Charts and Graphs:  ABI also provide charts ranging from frequency of bankruptcy filings, mortgage delinquency trends, housing and real estate trends.

Links For Consumers Re: Pro-Bono and Affordable Solutions For Financial Recovery (Emphasis on Southern California)

Orange County(Ca) Legal Aid Society Hotline:  Low income Orange County residents facing the prospect of filing bankruptcy may call this hotline to determine eligibility to be provided with pro-bono legal representation or guidance for your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This hotline may schedule an in person appointment with an attorney for free if you are eligible. The personnel here are incredibly friendly and very experienced.

OC Legal Aid Society: Legal Genie Bankruptcy Forms and Legal Advice:  If OC residents do not qualify for free legal representation yet are still low income individuals who cannot afford an attorney, Legal Aid provides a do it yourself website with forms and access to attorneys for advice during a do-it-yourself process for a nominal fee.

Orange County Public Law Center Bankruptcy Clinic:  Another resource for low income OC residents to seek pro-bono legal representation through the potential Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Public Law Center also represents (although rarely) low income consumer creditors.

Links For Attorneys and Judges

ABI Volo Project:  This is a service for practicing attorneys and judges lead by a community of fellow attorneys providing 24 hour updates on game changing bankruptcy Circuit Courts of Appeal decisions directly to your email or phone.

Other Areas of Law Such as Immigration and Taxes as it Relates to Bankruptcy: 
FicaroLaw News and Resource Center:  This is the hub website for news and resources involving Immigration, Real Estate and Foreclosure, Tax and Bankruptcy.

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