For many becoming an American citizen through naturalization is the chance to give their family a better quality of life and find opportunities that they may not have in their home country. But, naturalization is not as simple as filling out a form, and several key factors will determine whether you can become an American citizen.
One of the most important factors is paying your taxes on time. This is expected of all American citizens, and if you have been working in the country under a Green Card, you must make sure you pay your taxes. Failure to file or pay your taxes on time can be a significant problem and could affect your naturalization application. So, if you are asking Can I apply for naturalization if I owe back taxes? You can carry on reading to find out everything you need to know.
Can I Apply for Naturalization if I Owe Back Taxes?
Good Moral Character
A premier requirement of becoming naturalized as an American citizen is demonstrating Good Moral Character. While it might seem like a vague phrase at first, it means that the applicant must demonstrate that they are an upstanding member of society that would positively contribute to the United States of America.
This implies a clean criminal record and no issues holding down a regular job no matter the industry. You could also assume that Good Moral Character can refer to paying your taxes fully and on time.
Therefore, failing to pay your taxes and owing back taxes to the Inland Revenue Service could make it appear that you lack Good Moral Character.
How Does This Affect Your Application?
If the person reading your application sees that you owe back taxes to the IRS, they may be less inclined to approve naturalization. However, this is not always the case. The truth is that all applications are different, and this means there are unique circumstances for all applicants.
You should not accept that you will never gain naturalization because you owe back taxes, and many applicants have still become legitimate American citizens even after owing back taxes to the IRS. Still, it is not as simple as getting lucky or catching the agent on a good day. If you want to strengthen your naturalization case, you must understand how to approach your application.
How To Apply For Naturalization Owing Back Taxes
Form N-400 is the document you need to fill out to begin the application process. This will include all expected information such as your name, date of birth, and other personal details. It will ask whether you have fulfilled your tax obligations in terms of paying taxes since you began working in the US under a Green Card or other employment scheme.
When you reach this section of the form, you must exercise honesty. This honesty is crucial, even if you have not paid the taxes you owe to the government.
Many applicants who fall under this category will ignore the question or lie. They are unsure of the consequences and will panic. At the very least, they will bend the truth or be purposely vague (lying by omission), hoping that they are not found out. However, this will never work, and the immigration officer will find out if you are not telling the truth.
Therefore, you must be honest when filling out Form N-400. If you have a good reason for not paying taxes, then the immigration officer may understand your situation. Rather than barring you from citizenship for life, they can help you start the process of paying the taxes you owe.
Even if you have not paid the taxes you owe at the time of your application, you can begin paying them back to demonstrate Good Moral Character. If you have been unemployed, low on funds, or have not filed a tax return, you have the opportunity to rectify any mistakes that will help your application.
Typically, this involves paying the basic amount of taxes owed along with any fees or penalties for filing after the deadline.
If you still cannot afford to pay your taxes, we can help you set up a installment agreement with the IRS. Depending on your situation, you have three payment options. These are:
- 120 Day payment extension
- Installment Plan 1 (sub-$25K liability)
- Installment Plan 2 (over $25K liability)
If you prove that you are happy to comply with the immigration officer and any regulations outlined by the USCIS, you can increase your chances of being granted citizenship, even before the taxes are paid off in full. Your immigration officer may consider this compliance as evidence of Good Moral Character. However, this is not always certain, so do not rely on it entirely, as it is at the immigration officer’s discretion assigned to your case.
As nothing is set in stone even after making late payments or setting up a payment plan with the IRS, your best options are to speak with an immigration attorney and tax professional. Your situation is unlikely to be unique, so they should have all the experience necessary to offer advice. They can help you collect evidence proving Good Moral Character and assist in writing a persuasive letter to increase your chances of a successful application.
If You Do Not File Your Taxes
As crucial as paying taxes are, some people will flat-out refuse to pay them no matter the consequences.
While you can still legally reside in the US even if you do not pay your taxes through an employment scheme, the chances of citizenship approval are low. Many immigration officers would tell you such chances are zero.
The USCIS wants to grant citizenship to everyone who could benefit from it, but this also means they do not want tax evaders to become naturalized citizens. Therefore, refusal to pay taxes will work against you in your application.
Although everyone has a different situation and sometimes cannot pay taxes due to financial hardship or extenuating circumstances, there is still no excuse for not informing the IRS. If the IRS is unaware of your situation, they cannot grant relief or offer assistance. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you file your taxes where possible and arrange payment plans to help you become a naturalized American citizen.