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Can I Apply for Citizenship if I Owe Back Taxes?

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2021 | Blog

When you apply for naturalization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will ask if you have any overdue taxes. What happens if you owe back taxes?

Paying Taxes Is Part of Your Good Moral Character Requirement

To gain U.S. citizenship, you must demonstrate good moral character. USCIS will use tax questions as part of your moral character evaluation. To be considered a person of good moral character, you must show that at least during the (three or) five years before you filed your application for naturalization, you were a person of good moral character.

Part of demonstrating good moral character is proving that you filed your tax returns and paid your taxes on time. Even if you’ve never been charged with a crime due to failure to file taxes, your actions may still reflect poor character and could hurt your chances of obtaining citizenship.

What USCIS Will Ask About Your Taxes

In addition to submitting your Application for Naturalization, you will be required to undergo an interview with the USCIS. During this interview, they may request the following:

  • Your tax returns/tax transcript to show that you have filed your returns for the past five years (or three years for those married to a U.S. citizen)
  • A signed repayment agreement from the IRS or your local tax office
  • Evidence that you are complying with the terms of your payment agreement

USCIS will also seek to verify your answers to the N-400 tax questions, which include questions about overdue taxes and filing tax returns.

If You Owe Back Taxes, You Can Still Be Approved for Naturalization

If you answered that you have overdue taxes or failed to file a tax return on your application for naturalization, this admission could hurt your chances of successfully applying for citizenship. However, there are actions you can take that could enable USCIS to excuse these tax problems.

For example, if you answered on your application that you have overdue taxes but are in compliance with a payment program, the agency may not consider your failure to pay as lack of good moral character. Likewise, even if the USCIS discovers that you owe back taxes, if you can show that extenuating circumstances such as a medical situation prevented you from complying with tax requirements, the agency may excuse your failure to pay on time.

However, if you didn’t file a tax return because you didn’t know you had to, this could reflect poorly on your moral character as a permanent resident of the U.S. Providing false information on your tax return also provides grounds for denying your citizenship application. An experienced immigration lawyer could help prepare a statement to establish why a tax issue does not detract from your good moral character.

Contact an Immigration Attorney About Back Taxes and Citizenship

If you owe back taxes or are unsure if you’re barred from U.S. naturalization due to tax-related issues, contact an immigration attorney at The Law Offices of Robert Bell, P.A. We can help you find solutions to your immigration challenges. To begin, contact us at 954-400-3156.