Q. I’m not a US citizen, but I am here legally, studying at a university.

I have accumulated some credit card debt. What would happen if I leave the country after I finish my education without paying my debt? Is there any international law that would apply? Could they find me in my home country?

What could be the consequences of this situation?

A. Frankly, your question is quite problematic and disturbing. If you are in financial difficulty, you can seek credit counseling help. If you need time to pay your debts, you can structure a repayment plan. If you are so in debt that you can’t cope, you can file for bankruptcy.

It’s hard to imagine that you’re even contemplating the idea of running up $20,000 or $30,000 in credit card debt and leaving the country. It’s shameful.

The only advice you should receive is to pay your debts. You’ve made use of your credit cards and should pay them off. If you can’t, you should work within the system to negotiate a payoff or pay them over time.

If you simply leave the country, the credit card company will eventually charge off the debt and destroy your credit history and credit score. If you change your mind and want to come back someday to establish a life, get a job, buy a home and raise a family, you might find the specter of your foolishness coming back to haunt you.

Published: May 21, 2004