A reader is even considering getting adopted overseas. Seriously.

Question: I just read a news article in CNBC about people moving to foreign countries to stop paying their student loans. I was thinking about it, and I know from the news article I would be hit with garnishments of my salaries and Social Security. And I know I can’t work for a USA company because they would take money from my paycheck. But I have a question I didn’t see answered: 

What if I get adopted overseas, change my name, and then apply as an immigrant? Would they catch me?

This isn’t a hypothetical. I’m 27 but my mother who raised me died two years ago, with no relatives in this country. I have distant but friendly relatives in China. I also have $42,000 of student loans. If I go to China, get adopted by my well-to-do relatives, then return to this country as a Chinese national to pursue my doctorate, how would this country know who I was and what I owe?

– Kim in California

Andrew Pentis answers…

Fleeing the country to avoid student loan repayment rarely works out well for borrowers, and it would probably only succeed if they live the rest of their lives outside the United States. It’s not something I recommend.

What about fleeing and then returning under a different identity? With all due respect, Kim, that is a hypothetical, and a juicy one at that.

As one lawyer specializing in student loans, Simon Goldenberg, told me: “No one knows whether her lenders will eventually catch her.”

From a legal standpoint, Goldenberg says changing your name and citizenship status won’t affect your liabilities. You would still owe your creditors what you borrowed — plus interest.

We won’t pretend to know whether the Department of Education or your private lenders have the wherewithal (or willingness) to track you down. We also won’t get into the ethics of knowingly not repaying what you borrowed. That’s fodder for a different type of advice column.

Instead, let’s review how to deal with your debt here at home…

For one, if you have federal loans, consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan to make your monthly payments as affordable as possible. Grouping your debt via a debt consolidation loan could be your first step.

If you have federal and private loans, you could attempt to refinance with a private lender. You’ll need a strong credit score (among other factors) to unlock refinancing companies’ lowest interest rates. Also, you’d lose the perks of federal loans, such as the ability to alter your repayment plan.

Finally, you could be eligible for student loan repayment assistance for your undergraduate loans or future doctorate costs. After all, it’s better to receive a helping hand than to have to look over your shoulder.

Andrew Pentis is a personal finance expert at Student Loan Hero.

Buried in student loan debt? Don’t flee the country. Contact Debt.com, we have the solutions to fit both federal and private student loan debt relief.

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Article last modified on January 2, 2019 Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Do I Still Have To Pay My Student Loans If I Flee The Country? - AMP.