Form I-944 is a relatively new and somewhat complicated part of the green card application process, and introduces a heightened standard of evidence over what you had to prove in previous versions of the green card process.
Also known as the Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, applicants must use this form to show that they will not, at any time in the future, become a public charge.
Put simply, adjustment of status applicants must show that they have the required income, property, skills, and education to avoid becoming a burden on the U.S. public welfare system.
Importantly for this article, Form I-944 asks for information about your taxes, both domestic and abroad, from the past year.
Most applicants will have to provide income information from their federal tax returns only for the prior year to comply with form I-944, but due to the I-864, Affidavit of Support information requirements, we typically ask clients to bring in their tax transcripts for the last three years.
They must also provide this information for any household members, such as spouses or parents who make a certain amount of income.
In the event that any of these individuals failed to file a tax return for any of these years (or if they were not required to file taxes for these years) you’ll have to explain the reasons why.
Required Tax Documents for the I-944: What You Need to Submit
The tax information you’ll have to submit can vary on a case-by-case basis, so it’s wise to speak to an attorney before you begin collecting your documentation.
For example, it’s very important that you speak to an attorney if you filed your taxes jointly with your spouse, especially if one or both of you worked in the United States, at any point, without work authorization.
Further, to quote directly from the Form I-944 instructions:
You must provide an IRS transcript of your Federal income tax returns for the most recent tax year and the IRS transcript of the household members whose income you are including…[please also] submit any tax transcripts for any income taxes that you or your household members filed with any foreign government if you or your household members were residing outside of the United States during any time within the most recent tax year and you were not required to file a federal income tax return with the United States Government.Instructions for Declaration of Self-Sufficiency (pgs. 5-6)
As you can see in this snippet, regardless of whether you’ve filed your taxes in the U.S., in a foreign country, or both, you need to submit all of your tax documents to USCIS along with your Form I-944.
Taxes Filed in the United States
Individuals who live and work in the United States for any significant amount of time will have to file taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
As you can see in the quoted section above, Form I-944 asks that you provide IRS tax transcripts of your Federal income tax returns for the most recent tax year.
You must also submit IRS tax transcripts for any household members whose income you are including in your Form I-944.
Importantly, please note that the language specifically asks for tax transcripts, not tax returns or any other form of documentation.
When you file your taxes with the IRS they will generate a tax transcript that records all of the information they received.
This is the specific document that USCIS is asking for, as it proves that you properly filed your taxes for the given tax year.
You can easily request a copy of your tax transcripts on the IRS website once you’ve created an account.
Finally, remember that, in the event you didn’t have to file a tax return in any of the prior three tax years, you can provide your Form W-2 of a Social Security Statement to show a history of your total annual income.
Taxes Filed in a Foreign Country
If you filed taxes in another country in the past year you need to provide documentation for these payments when you send in your Form I-944.
However, your foreign tax documentation must be more complete than a simple document comparable to an IRS tax transcript.
While the requirements can vary from country to country, the general rule is that you should submit as much evidence as is available to you.
Further, this is a topic that you must discuss with an attorney, as the requirements can vary on a case-by-case basis.
Form I-944 is a relatively new but critically important addition to the green card process.
It will ask you a series of questions about your income, property, skills, and education, and will request a series of documents that can help you back up your claims.
As a part of this process, you’ll have to submit IRS tax transcripts for at least the past year, and preferably the past three years.
If you filed taxes in another country in the past year you’ll have to submit evidence for those payments as well.
If you’re concerned about gathering all of the necessary documentation, or are unsure about where you can find this information, you should speak with an attorney immediately.
The adjustment of status process is a complicated and ever-changing affair, so it’s important for you to have an experienced attorney by your side who can walk you through the process.