Do civil proceedings or collections affect my visa status?

Do you owe a hospital or a landlord or a credit card company money and are you worried about your visa?  Worry not.

I had a prospective client (I’ll call him John) call my office this week because he signed an apartment lease and wanted to break the lease before he moved into the apartment.  When they told the landlord, the landlord insisted that he had to pay the entire lease and that they would hire a collection agency for anything unpaid.  John was here on an F1 visa, and he was worried that this would affect his ability to reenter the U.S. at a later date.

As an aside, this kind of predatory leasing tactic is entirely unacceptable, and John would almost certainly not be held liable for the amount of the lease.  That isn’t the point of this article, but call an attorney if you find yourself butting heads with a landlord like this.  Back to the visa issue.

Immigration considers many factors in deciding whether you can enter, or reenter the United States.  One factor is the “good moral character” of the applicant.  Good moral character itself consists of an extensive list of factors, including being convicted of a crime, being a habitual drunkard, and lying to the government.  Owing a private debt is NOT on that list. Nor is it an issue of good moral character in debt-fueled America.  Your debt is a matter between you and another private citizen and not one that will affect your entrance into the United States.

In sum, get an attorney to handle the landlord if you can’t manage them yourself, and if you do indeed owe money then don’t worry about it when you apply for your visa.

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