Be Aware of Your IRS Tax Filing Obligations before Applying for a US Visa for Spouse or Relative
IJ Zemelman Apr-25-2015
If you are going to be applying for a US Visa for your relative, make sure you are current on your US expat tax obligations.
Visa application for your relative will entail submission of USCIS form I-864 - affidavit of financial support. It will require you to submit proof of having filed US tax returns.
You must provide either an IRS transcript or a photocopy from your own records of your Federal individual income tax return for the most recent tax year. If you believe additional returns may help you to establish your ability to maintain sufficient income, you may submit transcripts or photocopies of your Federal individual income tax returns for the three most recent years.
You are not required to have the IRS certify the transcript or photocopy unless specifically instructed to do so by a Government official; a plain transcript or photocopy is acceptable. Telefile tax records are not acceptable proof of
If you provide a photocopy of your tax return(s), you must include a copy of each and every Form W-2 and Form 1099 that relates to your return(s).
Do not submit any tax returns that you filed with any foreign government unless you claim that you were not required to file a Federal tax return with the United States government and you wish to rely on the foreign return solely to establish the amount of your income that is not subject to tax in the United States.
Please note - even if you did not have to file, the Consulate will require proof of filing. Ie you can’t simply say ‘I didn’t have to file’. If you were not required to file a Federal income tax return under U.S. tax law, attach a written explanation including evidence of the exemption and how you qualified for it. Residence outside of the United States does not exempt U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents from filing a U.S. Federal income tax return.
You can get caught up on your back taxes by taking advantage of the Streamlined Filing Procedures.
If you are not currently up to date with your US tax filings, the IRS offers a program to become compliant - the Streamlined Procedure.
We’ve processed over 1,000 clients via it and are very happy with the result. Filing with it will require 3 years of tax returns and 6 years of FBAR. Our cost to do it is $1,200 (or $1,400 if annual income was over $100k).
You will have to file paper returns for prior tax years, and it could be a couple months before the IRS processes your past due tax returns.
If you are in need of a Visa now and you are not current on your US income taxes, your chance of obtaining a Visa quickly are low.
This is because you need to file previous years’ tax returns on paper and send them through the mail. While you can file the current year’s US expat tax return online via e-filing, this is not the case for prior years. It can take the IRS up to 30 days to officially process the receipt your tax returns, and then the timeline for the actual processing your past due returns is even longer - 45 to 90 days.
If you know you’re going to need a Visa sometime down the road and you are not current with your tax liabilities, we advise to take action immediately.
In two months I have an appointment at the US embassy for a green card application for my spouse and I’ve yet to file any returns -- what can I do?
We recommend to get started on tax prep ASAP and get your tax returns completed. Although the IRS won’t review your documents for at least 45 days from filing, we recommend to bring in a paper copy of the filed returns and a mailing receipt to show that you have filed the returns.
I.J. Zemelman, EA is the founder of Taxes for Expats