“I have had a green card for almost four years. I was undocumented for seven years before that, and I married an American citizen. I have not paid U.S. taxes for the duration of the time that I’ve been here, and I am worried about this in the event that I choose to apply for U.S. citizenship. Is this something that I have to be worried about? Is tax history checked for citizenship?”

Yes, failure to pay tax is something that you should be worried about on any number of levels – first and foremost, it’s a punishable crime not to comply with state and federal tax laws.

Will not paying taxes affect your chances of obtaining U.S. citizenship? Of course. Naturalization applicants are asked on the N-400 application paperwork if they have ever failed to file a federal or state tax return since becoming a lawful permanent resident; the following question asks if any federal, state or local taxes are overdue.

As the N-400 form is official U.S. government correspondence, the questions must be answered truthfully. Therefore, as you’ll have to answer yes, you would have to bring evidence of subsequent IRS compliance to your naturalization interview.

What would this entail? Well, first and foremost you’ll need to speak with a tax accountant to clean up your tax history, and figure out back taxes that may be owed. You will also need to provide correspondence proving this at the time of your interview.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), “If you have ever failed to file an income tax return since you became a permanent resident, send all correspondence with the IRS regarding your failure to file.

“If you have any federal, state or local taxes that are overdue, send a signed agreement from the IRS or state or local tax office showing that you have filed a tax return and arranged to pay the taxes you owe; and documentation from the IRS or state or local tax office showing the current status of your repayment program.”

The advice from here is to see an accountant and get your taxes sorted out, and then commence the citizenship process if you wish.

No to E-Filing

“I have a green card and I’ve been outside of the U.S. since last fall. I don’t anticipate coming back anytime soon. I know that re-entry permits can be obtained and that the papers can be filed online. Is it advisable to do this?”

Not in your case. Though the I-131 paperwork required to obtain a re-entry permit -- which allows permanent residents to remain outside the U.S. for two years – can be filed online through the USCIS website, if you read the instructions they clearly say that those residing outside the country cannot e-file this form.

It has always been true that permanent residents must submit the paperwork for a re-entry permit while still in the U.S. The permit can be mailed to an address abroad, but it’s of the utmost importance that the request is made while the applicant is here, otherwise a denial will follow (we’ve seen it happen).

If you wish to protect the legality of your green card, you should make plans to return to the U.S. before you’ve been out of the country for a year, and then take the appropriate steps.