USCIS Tax Return Requirements for Green Cards

Russell M. Angelo
How To Get a Green Card to Work in the U.S.

One of the basic requirements for maintaining lawful permanent resident status in the United States is to pay income taxes. USCIS takes this seriously, and accurate reporting of income is important. If you have more questions about the USCIS Tax Return Requirements for Green Cards, learn more in this article.

Normally, the petitioner or joint sponsor must submit tax documents as part of Form I-864, which is an Affidavit of Support for Family-Based Green Cards. This article will discuss the specifics of what is needed for this purpose.

Tax Returns for the Past 3 Years

Green card holders must file taxes, just as US citizens and permanent residents do. Even though the filing deadline is April 15, the IRS allows individuals to apply for an extension to June 15.

If a person is sponsoring a relative for a green card, he or she must provide tax documents from the past three years. Discrepancies or issues with the tax returns can lead to a Request for Evidence.

Similarly, if a couple is filing to adjust their status based on marriage, they must prove that their marriage is bona fide. USCIS reviews several types of documentation to make this determination, including tax documents. Specifically, the USCIS examiner will review the couples’ next occurring tax filing to ensure that they filed jointly.

Tax Returns for the Current Year

As a green card holder you are considered a tax payer by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is true even if your company does not withhold taxes from your paycheck. Therefore, it is very important that you file your taxes every year.

If you do not submit your federal income tax return forms for the current year, USCIS will likely issue an RFE. Typically, they will ask for IRS tax transcripts which contain detailed information about your previous federal income tax filings. However, they will also accept a copy of your tax return Form 1040 and any Federal Schedules you used to file your taxes each year.

Providing your most recent personal income tax returns is important because it helps demonstrate stability and a history of earning. The prior years are not as significant, but still relevant in helping to show a consistent income stream. If you are sponsoring a spouse for citizenship, these prior years will also help to establish bona fide marriage.

Tax Returns for the Past 2 Years

The petitioner (and Joint Sponsor if applicable) must submit their tax documents to verify that they meet the income requirements for the past two years. This is typically done by uploading the IRS Tax Return Transcript along with any W-2s and 1099s.

It’s important for green card holders to file tax returns each year. It not only shows a history of employment, but it also helps pass the Substantial Presence test. This is an essential test to ensure that you qualify for certain immigration benefits, such as Cancellation of Removal or a favorable discretion of an Immigration Judge or USCIS.

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may also need to provide other forms of income verification. For instance, if you have income from Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or U.S. Virgin Islands, you may need to file a separate tax return form with those jurisdictions. If you have any issues or discrepancies on your taxes, it is wise to work with a CPA to resolve them before submitting them to USCIS.

Tax Returns for the Past 1 Year

If you or your spouse has a green card and you are filing a petition to become naturalized, then you must provide proof that you have filed joint tax returns for the past 3 years. This is a very important piece of evidence that USCIS examiners will review when assessing your eligibility.

The purpose of these tax returns is to establish your income and demonstrate good moral character. The USCIS may request additional documents if they believe you are not meeting these requirements.

A Tax Return Transcript is usually easier for the examiner to review because it is shorter and includes all the information you need in one document. Providing this document reduces the chance that you will need to submit additional documents to address issues that the examiner identifies.

Green card holders who have income from Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or the U.S. Virgin Islands must file with their territory’s tax department and may also need to file a federal income tax return. Contact a tax professional to learn more about these rules.

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