Can I naturalize while owing back taxes?

Can I naturalize while owing back taxes?

One question on the N-400 application for naturalization is whether the citizenship applicant has any unpaid or overdue taxes. Unpaid taxes can lead to delays in the approval of your application. Or, it can lead to an outright denial.

The immigration service considers whether your unpaid taxes are evidence of bad moral character. This gives them discretion in approving or denying your case.

This video explains how unpaid taxes can impact our citizenship application.


I owe back taxes, and I’m wondering, can I still become a US citizen? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration attorney here in St. Louis, Missouri. We get this question from time to time. We have people who come to see us that are thinking about filing for citizenship. In fact, we had someone here just recently. The long in the short of it is that if you owe back taxes, you can become a US citizen.

Now, it is up to the immigration office to decide whether or not you are a person of good moral character so they’re going to look at it as the totality of the circumstances in deciding whether or not your back payments owed constitute bad moral character or not. They really have a lot of discretion, and we always want to apply and file as strong a case as possible. To the extent that you can pay off your taxes before you file that would always be our advice.

The law says that if you have a back payment order and you have been making payments on a regular basis you can still naturalize. Here’s what you have to do. You have to enter into a payment program with the IRS and you have to follow that payment program. We wouldn’t want to apply right after you started the payment program. It would be much better to let some time pass to get some payments under your belt.

For instance, the fellow that we met with yesterday, he’s current for his last three years of taxes, and his back payment is from  a franchise that went sour back about three or four years ago. He’s made all of his payments in the last couple years. Now, he’s catching up. He’s actually making substantial payments every month and he’s done so for the last two years.

We feel pretty good about filing for a case like that because we’ve complied with the requirements. We have a payment plan. We’re making the payments. We can document the payments. We don’t think that someone is going to conclude it just because he had a franchise that went south five years ago that he shouldn’t be able to become a US citizen. As long as he keeps making those payments, we think there’s no reason why the immigration service should deny the case now.

With everything with Immigration, they have a lot of discretion and that’s unfortunate because you really want to file it without any kind of negative factors on your case. We think that it’s worthwhile to go ahead and file. That’s what he’s decided to do and we’ll see how it turns out in the long run. You should know that people with tax problems can, under certain circumstances, like we’ve just outlined become a US citizen.

If you have any questions about that or any other part of the naturalization process, give us a call, 314-961-8200 or you can shoot me an email, jim@hacklinglawpractice.com. Thanks.