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What tax documents must you submit with a marriage green card application?

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November 29, 2021

Key Takeaways

To prove that they can be a dependable financial resource to you, your family-based green card sponsor has to submit tax documents to the U.S. government with your application for permanent resident status. For a marriage green card application, your sponsor is usually your spouse and they'll have to submit tax documents to prove that they meet the minimum income requirements. This article answers the most frequently asked questions about which tax documents to include in your marriage green card application.

Table of Contents

Who must submit tax documents with their marriage green card application? 

Your green card sponsor must submit evidence of their U.S. federal tax returns when they file Form I-864 or the “Affidavit of Support.” U.S. immigration law requires your sponsor in marriage-based green card applications to ensure that you will not be a significant burden on public resources. The Affidavit of Support is a signed statement where a sponsor agrees to financially support their foreign spouse who wishes to convert their immigration status to lawful permanent resident. You, the green card applicant, do not need to provide your tax records on Form I-864. Only your sponsor must.

Sometimes, sponsoring U.S. citizen or green card holder spouses may not meet the minimum income requirements for sponsors on their own. In this case, you and your primary sponsoring spouse might want to find a joint sponsor. Joint sponsors accept joint liability with the sponsoring spouse to support you financially and do not need to be related to you or your spouse. If you have a joint sponsor, that joint sponsor will need to submit their U.S. tax returns as well.

What are the tax documents to include with your marriage green card application?

Your spouse and joint sponsor (if you have one) can include any of the following tax documents with your green card application: 

By providing either of the above set of documents, your spouse and joint sponsor can prove their financial ability to support you as a U.S. lawful permanent resident. They do not need to submit state tax returns with Form I-864.

How do you get a transcript of your IRS tax return?

A federal tax return transcript is an official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) document summarizing an individual’s tax returns. A sponsor can use a federal tax return transcript to prove their ability to support the green card applicant financially. Your sponsor may request their tax return transcripts for the last three U.S. tax years on the IRS’s website. To access their tax return transcripts, they must enter their Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), tax filing status (for example, “nonresident alien”), mailing address on their latest tax returns, an email address, a mobile phone number with their name on the account, and a personal bank account number from a credit card, mortgage, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, or a car loan.

If they cannot obtain their federal tax return transcript for a specific filing year, they will need to submit a signed affidavit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This affidavit should explain why they could not provide the transcript and affirm that they will continue trying to obtain it by your interview for U.S. residence. It’s helpful if they include screenshots of the IRS’s website showing that they cannot access their transcript with the IRS’s transcript tool.

How many years of tax return information does the U.S. government require for your green card application?

For Form I-864, the sponsoring spouse and joint sponsor (if applicable) will need to provide tax record information for at least the most recent filing year (usually the last calendar year) to at most the last three years to prove that they meet the minimum income requirement for green card applicant sponsors. Providing copies or transcripts of federal income tax returns beyond two to three years past is optional. For instance, if they had a higher income in the most recent filing year than in previous years, and if that income meets the minimum requirements, then there’s no need to provide tax transcripts from two or three years ago.

What should you submit if you filed joint taxes?

For tax purposes, some couples may file jointly instead of separately. In this case, the sponsoring spouse and green card applicant spouse must provide their joint federal tax return transcript and any supporting documents (such as the W-2, 1099-MISC, or foreign income statements and schedules) on Form I-864.

If a sponsoring spouse files their taxes jointly with their green card applicant spouse, the sponsoring spouse will have to determine how much of the joint income belongs to themself. Sponsoring spouses should then explain on page 12 of Form I-864 why their personal earned income (separate from their green card applicant spouse’s income) differs from the number on their most recent federal income tax return.

What if your green card sponsor didn't file their taxes?

If your sponsoring spouse or joint sponsor did not file their U.S. taxes in the latest year, they must provide an exemption letter with Form I-864 explaining their reason for not filing taxes. For instance, if your sponsor’s income was below the minimum income required to pay taxes in past years, they would not have been required to file taxes and were, therefore, exempt. Further, if a joint sponsor is a taxpayer in a foreign country, they need to provide an exemption letter explaining their circumstances.

However, if your sponsor or joint sponsor broke tax law and did not pay their U.S. income taxes without having an exemption from tax obligations, they cannot sponsor your green card application.

Conclusion

Holding a U.S. green card can open up many opportunities, allowing you to work and maintain a physical presence in the United States long term. As a green card holder, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will consider you a “tax resident” under the green card test. Eventually, you may even be able to convert your green card into U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process.

Becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you and your spouse can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle your green card case alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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