Home > Managing Debt > Can a Bad Debt Get You Deported?

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Can your unpaid debts get you deported or barred from entering the U.S.?

Our reader, who goes by the screen name “Chica,” says she came to the U.S. with her mother-in-law, who received treatment for cancer in the U.S. As is typical in these situations, there were two sets of bills: one from the physicians and another from the hospital. Chica says they made payments regularly, and then left the U.S. When she checked on the bills recently, though, she discovered that the hospital had sent a balance of $9,900 to collections.

She’s not trying to get out of paying. In fact, she says, “We’ve always followed the rules.” But she is confused about how to handle this bill now that it’s with a collection agency. More important, she is worried about whether this medical debt will affect her — or her mother-in-law’s — ability to re-enter the U.S. in the future.

She wants to know what impact it could have on future visas and visits.

“We love America,” she adds. “It has (the) best health care, and (we)  love the friendliness of (people). We plan on visiting again and again. We’ve never been in that situation before and I am really worried about all this, and bad debt …”

The good news, for our reader and for others in this situation, is that bad debt generally won’t impact your ability to enter the U.S. or stay here. In fact, except in rare circumstances, you can’t be deported because you can’t pay your debt.

How the Government Sees Your Debt

“Normally, the United States does not look at credit” when considering visa applications, says Washington D.C.-based immigration attorney Dimo Michailov.

If a bad debt winds up in the court system, it is usually a civil proceeding that does not have to be disclosed. If criminal activity were involved, it would be a different matter, he says. As a general rule, though, being unable to pay your debts is not a criminal matter.

If Chica or her mother-in-law had worked in the U.S. and had unpaid taxes due, that could be a factor if they tried to apply for a green card (permanent residency) or U.S. citizenship, Michailov said. Similarly, unpaid child support can create problems for a foreign national in the U.S. “Non-payment of child support is a crime in certain circumstances,” says Michailov, “and this can make a non-immigrant or immigrant foreign national subject to removal proceedings or barred from entering the U.S. in the future.”

But generally, unpaid consumer debts aren’t a problem for those trying to get or maintain a visa, or even apply for U.S. citizenship.

Still, Chica and her mother-in-law aren’t trying to skirt their debt, and if they want to receive services at that hospital in the future, it will be helpful for them to resolve these debts. If they can’t afford to pay in full, they may want to consider settling the debt with the collection agency for a lump sum that is less than the total amount owed. Since they are out of the U.S. (and pretty much out of the reach of our legal system) the collector may be happy to settle the debt and be done with it.

Otherwise, they will need to work out a payment schedule to pay off the balance. Either way, they will want to get the agreement in writing and make sure to keep a careful record of their payments. In the future, they may want to try to negotiate cash rates with medical providers if they can afford to pay upfront.

Because they are not residents of the U.S., they don’t have to worry about these bad debts affecting their credit scores. If Chica decides to make the U.S. her home in the future, she’ll want to consider building credit as an immigrant. By then, she should have a better understanding of how our credit system works.

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team