Aside from the fact that all individuals must pay taxes on income earned in the U.S., it is in the best interest of all immigrants, including undocumented immigrants and immigrants who are currently “out of status,” to file income tax returns.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) requires an applicant to present his or her federal income tax returns for a variety of immigration petitions and applications. Thus, it is important that you file your tax returns every year so that you are able to present your returns for immigration purposes.
The following demonstrate various immigration scenarios that would require you to present filed tax returns:
- Evidence of Good Moral Character for Naturalization Application
To naturalize or become a United States citizen, a lawful permanent resident must present federal income tax returns for every year that he or she has had a green card and was required to file a tax return. The inability to do so may prevent a green card holder from naturalizing.
- Proof of Physical Presence In the U.S. for Certain Immigration Applications
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”), and adjustment of status under section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, are two applications that require proof of physical presence in the United States. The most common and requested proof of physical presence to establish eligibility for these immigration benefits is federal income tax returns.
- Proof of Good Faith Marriage for Green Cards Based on Marriage
Immigration petitions and applications based on marriage to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident require proof of a good-faith marriage. Tax returns, filed jointly or separately as a married couple, are the most common and requested evidence of a good faith marriage.
- Evidence of Good Moral Character and Positive Contributions to the U.S. In Removal Proceedings
If you are placed in removal or deportation proceedings, almost all relief from removal requires that you present your federal income tax returns in immigration court before an Immigration Judge. Tax returns can demonstrate your physical presence in the United States, as well as your good moral character and positive contributions to the United States. Alternatively, the inability to provide federal tax returns may result in denial of relief, and thus an order of removal.
- Proof of Financial Support to Obtain Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visas for Family Members
If a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident files an immigration petition for a family member, such as a spouse or fiancé, the petitioner will need to present federal income tax returns in conjunction with a financial affidavit of support. Not being able to present your tax returns may hinder you from obtaining such immigration benefits for your family members.
The foregoing examples demonstrate that it is important for all immigrants to file their tax returns. Regardless of your immigration status, even if you are a lawful permanent resident, it is crucial that you file your income tax returns.