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The Basics of Filing Taxes for Immigrants

Updated: Apr 7, 2023


The 2023 tax season is in full swing, and it will soon get even busier with tax filing deadlines within the next 60 days.


Immigrants’ Tax Filings

If you’re an immigrant currently working in the United States, you may be wondering if you’re required to pay federal income taxes. The answer is, immigrants do pay taxes, and they often have to deal with a host of unique problems like language barriers and filing taxes for the first time. It is important to work with a reputable, professional tax accountant in order to make sure that everything is done properly. Anything you report on your tax returns (as well as any errors and debts) could affect you in the future, including when you apply for a green card or U.S. citizenship.


File by obtaining your SSN OR ITIN

You can only pay taxes in the United States if you have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). People who are authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security are eligible to apply for a Social Security number. If you aren’t eligible for a Social Security Number, you can apply for an individual taxpayer identification number by submitting Form W-7 (officially called the “Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number”). You must submit this to the IRS along with documentation that proves your foreign status and identity.


Warning if you have a pending Immigration Application

Other than working with a tax professional to follow the most current federal and state tax laws, it is important to discuss your tax filings with your immigration attorney if you have an ongoing immigration case. For example, some tax preparers suggest married couples file separately if their circumstances will save them money on taxes or give them a larger tax refund. But if your immigration case depends on proving a good faith marriage (marriage-based green card or citizenship), then filing separately could be a negative factor from the view of an immigration officer who puts a heavy weight on comingling of finances for their decision on a case.


Additional Benefits to Filing

Other than meeting a legal requirement that may apply while residing in the U.S., there are other benefits to paying taxes:

● A factor to help show “good moral character” for people who hope to apply for a green card or U.S. citizenship

● Documents presence and employment history in the United States

● Tax benefits (for instance, the Child Tax Credit)

● Helps demonstrate you are not a public charge when applying for immigration benefits


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