Impact on immigration petition if American spouse owes money to IRS

Annie writes, "I have excellent credit score and my American boyfriend has proposed to me.  We are discussing plans for wedding, but he has not been meticulous about his taxes and owes money to the Internal Revenue Service.  If we do get married, will this tax matter affect the marriage based green card petition?  Can I file my taxes separately from him till his tax matter is resolved?  Am I required to file taxes jointly to get my permanent residency approved?  Will that affect my excellent credit score then?  Please help."

  1. If you need a green card based on marriage soon enough, she will first need to first get clear with the IRS.  The USCIS does not approve petitions when taxes are due to the IRS.  In fact, you may want to delay filing a green card petition till the tax issues are resolved.  She will need to hire a tax attorney so that she makes IRS happy and that does not always mean that she has to pay all her taxes right away if the amount is very large.  As long as she completes the paperwork and agrees to pay the IRS over a period of time, she would be fine with USCIS.
  2. Indeed, if you still get married, make sure that you file taxes separately, though, this will raise questions during the green card interview and you will need to explain the whole background, but as long as there is an arrangement worked out with the IRS, it should not matter as much.
  3. Credit score is an entirely separate matter, but if your wife has low score, you both should not borrow anything together until she is totally in the clear with all her debts.  In any case, if she is a financially irresponsible person, you two should never have a joint credit account because she could revert to her old ways later on and then destroy your credit score.  It is important to point out that merely owing taxes to the IRS does not lower credit score unless a lien is placed by the Feds.  It is likely that she also has not been paying her bills on time to other creditors.
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