All people applying for a family-based green card are required to provide the financial information for a Sponsor to show that they will have access to support in the US once they receive their green card. In most family-based cases, the petitioning family member is the primary sponsor for the application. This sponsorship is done by filing Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
In order to be eligible to sponsor, the petitioner (or Joint Sponsor, if applicable) must show that they met the income requirements for their household size for both the current year and the most recent tax year. To verify whether they met the requirements for the most recent tax year, USCIS asks for the sponsor’s tax documents. These tax documents can be difficult to navigate, however, so we have put this guide together to help you understand exactly which documents are required, and how you can locate these documents.
What tax documents does USCIS require?
The documents needed will vary depending on whether the sponsor filed their taxes Married Filing Jointly or not. The list below shows the options for tax documents based on their filing status:
Married Filing Jointly
If they filed their taxes Married Filing Jointly, they have two options:
- Option 1: Upload the IRS Tax Return Transcript (request it for free here) and any W-2s and/or 1099s for each year.
- Option 2: Upload the Federal Tax Returns (Form 1040 and ALL Federal Schedules) and any W-2s and/or 1099s for each year.
Single, Married Filing Separately, or Head of Household
If they filed their taxes Singly, Married Filing Separately, or Head of Household, they have two options:
- Option 1: Upload the IRS Tax Return Transcript (request it for free here) – W-2s are not required
- Option 2: Upload the Federal Tax Returns (Form 1040 and ALL Federal Schedules) and any W-2s and/or 1099s for each year
Pro-tip: The Tax Return Transcript is shorter, and includes all of the necessary information in a single document, which makes it easier for you to provide and for USCIS to process. By contrast, the Federal Tax Returns most people get from their accountants or online filing software tend to be very long, and full of unnecessary pages. Sorting through these pages to find the important ones can be confusing and stressful. Including the extra pages in the application increases the chances that the USCIS officer will miss something important. Because of this, it can make your tax document shorter and more clear by adding the Tax Return Transcript whenever possible.
Tax Document FAQs:
Do I need to provide tax documents for the last 3 years?
Providing USCIS with the income information for the last three years from the Total Income line of the tax returns is required. However, providing actual copies of the tax returns for the second and third most recent years is optional. Please keep in mind that sponsors must indicate (either on the form itself or in the SimpleCitizen questionnaire) whether or not they plan on including these optional tax documents.
Providing photocopies of your tax returns for the second and third most recent years establishes steady income. This can be helpful if the sponsor:
- Is retired
- Is self-employed
- Just barely met the income requirement for the most recent tax year, and wants to prove that they have consistently met the requirements for the last three years.
Aside from these instances, providing the tax return documentation for the 2nd and 3rd years is completely optional. It will not affect USCIS’ processing of your case. However, they must include either both or neither. In other words, an applicant is not able to submit the 3rd most recent tax year but not the 2nd most recent tax year or vice versa.
I got an extension on my taxes, can I leave my most recent taxes off of my application?
Before the regular tax deadline has passed for a given year, the tax returns for that year are not required. Once that deadline has passed USCIS requires the returns from that year, even if the IRS has granted an extension. Choosing to submit without the tax returns after the deadline has passed will result in a Request for Evidence (RFE) that can extend the processing of the application by 3-6 months.
Pro tip: Sometimes, USCIS will still require tax docs even if tax day has not passed yet. It is best practice to submit with the newest tax year if submitting within about 2 months of tax day.
What if I didn’t file taxes for one of the years?
Petitioners who didn’t file taxes for one of the years because they didn’t make the required income amount are not required to provide their tax documentation for that year. This can be indicated in the form, and a brief explanation can be provided that includes which years the petitioner was not required to file taxes and why.
Please note: If the sponsor did not make the required income amount for the most recent tax year, they are likely not eligible to sponsor on their own, and will most likely be required by USCIS to add a Joint Sponsor or the income of a household member.
If a sponsor made the required income amount for one of the years, but did not file taxes for another reason, there is a very good chance that USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence requiring the tax returns from that year. To avoid this, the sponsor may consider working with a CPA to get any issues with previous years resolved before submitting.
What if I have an issue with my previous tax returns and need to refile/amend them?
Any discrepancies or issues with the tax returns may result in a Request for Evidence from USCIS. This can be avoided by resolving any issues on tax returns before they are submitted. If you are not sure how to do this, you may consider working with a CPA to get all issues amended.
What if I am on a tax payment plan?
Petitioners on a tax payment plan will need to provide the following:
- Proof of the payment plan
- The payment schedule
- Proof of the most recent payments
Additionally, the petitioner will also need to add a Joint Sponsor or a Household Member to also support the application.
Examples of the tax documents
If you don’t know if you have the correct document, please refer to the images below for examples:
Tax Return Transcript:
Important Note: Please be sure that the title of your document is Tax Return Transcript. The Wage and Income Transcript, and Tax Account Transcript are not accepted.
Federal Tax Returns:
Form 1040: The form 1040 is generally 2 pages long, and looks like this:
Federal Schedules – Federal Schedules have titles like “Schedule 2,” “Schedule D,” “Schedule SE,” “Form 8995” etc. They are usually located directly after the Form 1040 in the tax return. State taxes, and any pages titled “worksheet” should not be included.
If you have any questions about your tax documents as you prepare your application, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our live chat! If you would like more specialized support, all of our green card application packages come with a full attorney review. During the review, the attorney will double-check all of your documents, and let you know if anything is missing. You can sign up for one of our application packages here.