Financial difficulties can hit anytime and anywhere, which means that when circumstances make it advisable for you to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you could be living and working outside of the United States. Does this mean that you can’t file here?

Not quite. But there are certain requirements that must be met.

Bankruptcy Code 11 U.S.C. Section 109 defines an eligible “debtor” as one who resides in the United States or has a home, business, or property in the country. In essence, this means that you are eligible to claim U.S. bankruptcy protection if you have assets here that could be seized by creditors to pay bills.

Do you have to be an American citizen?

The U.S. Bankruptcy Code does not specify that you have to live in the United States or even be an American citizen. It is sufficient to have property and other assets in a U.S. jurisdiction. Some courts have declared that “property” can even be money in a bank account. If you want to file in New York City, for example, you literally only have to have a penny to your name (translated: a basic bank account with $.01 balance).

Where to file

28 U.S.C. 1408 requires you to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the district where you have lived, been domiciled, maintained your principal U.S. base of business, or kept your principal American assets for the greater portion of the 180 days period prior to filing your case. If you’ve been living abroad the entire time, then the case would have to be filed in the district where your assets have been located the longest during the 180-day period. When it comes to exemptions, you may choose state or federal.

If you do not own any assets in this country and have no immediate plans to return to the US, then bankruptcy may not be necessary because many American creditors do not have the inclination or resources to pursue property held in a foreign country. If they do, the bankruptcy laws of your resident country may offer the protection you need. If you are employed by a U.S. company or have reason to return at some point (e.g. you have family in New York), then filing for bankruptcy here could be your best option.

If you live outside the United States but want to file in New York, then consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney who has handled bankruptcies for non-resident clients in the past. If you are struggling to make ends meet, then an American bankruptcy may give you the fresh start needed to create a stronger financial future. Contact the law office of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. if you have any questions regarding personal bankruptcy. Mr. Lutzky offers in-office consultations at not charge. Visit to learn about Mr. Lutzky’s 33+ years of experience or call 718-514-6619.