Tax Returns for USCIS

Applications for USCIS can be frightening. I get approached frequently with taxpayers that are filing documents or otherwise petitioning for various residency statuses. Part of the requirements for many USCIS forms (I-751, for example) is to have tax returns filed. However, tax payers sometimes procrastinate on their taxes and get into a situation where several years' worth of taxes have not been filed, yet a USCIS appointment, interview, or petition is due. In this situation, the question comes up:

  1. When is my tax return considered valid and submitted? If you have not filed your tax return, at least get it prepared and send out the delinquent year with a delivery confirmation. Bring a printout of the filed return to your interview along with a letter from your CPA acknowledging that the tax return has been prepared. After watching years of police investigation movies, one many be erroneously left with the impression that all of these government agencies somehow talk to each other and will find out when something is filed in one place in order to "catch you in a lie." This could not be farther from the truth. Each agency has its own database, usually maintained using some type of black-and-green screened legacy system. None of these databases are compatible nor are they connected. If you bring your tax return to your interview along with a USPS delivery confirmation that it has been received by the IRS and a letter from your CPA, you can feel pretty confident that you did everything in your power to attempt to correct your delinquent tax status prior to the interview.
  2. When is this return considered "filed" for it to comply with USCIS? It takes a return several weeks to be processed with the IRS, and it may take longer if they identify issues with the return. If you have a USCIS interview on Monday, and you contact your accountant on Thursday of the preceding week, it is likely that the return may not be entirely processed by the time your interview comes around. The best you can do in this case is to bring evidence of tax compliance (copy of return and delivery/tracking information) to your interview.
  3. Should I file married filing jointly? Yes