In general, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) don't factor in your credit score or consumer debts when reviewing your application for citizenship. These debts are considered a civil matter, meaning companies who you owe money to would seek remedies against you in civil rather than criminal court. Thus they have no bearing on your fitness as a potential US citizen and would not factor into any deportation decision.
However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. Here are two debts can affect your immigration status and what you can do to fix the issue.
Debts Owed to the Government
Owing debts to the government can lead to problems with immigration. Specifically, if you owe back taxes to the IRS, your application for citizenship may be denied and/or you may be deported from the country even if you're here legally. That's because tax evasion is a crime, and the USCIS does factor in criminal activity when evaluating citizenship applications or deciding whether a non-citizen should remain in the country.
However, owing back taxes is not an automatic negative mark against you. This issue is decided at the discretion of the USCIS agent handling your case. You can prevent back taxes from interfering with your immigration status if you can show you're taking care of the problem. For instance, presenting a payment plan you set up with the IRS can show you're not, in fact, trying to avoid paying the required taxes. The agent may then put your application on hold until you get caught up or go ahead and approve it, depending on how much you owe and how close you are to resolving the issue.
Child Support Arrearages
Child support is generally a private issue between parents, the legal aspects of which are handled by the family court system. However, it may become an immigration issue if you fall so far behind in payments that it turns into a criminal matter. This is because child support orders are court mandates that must be adhered to. If the paying parent fails to comply with the court order, he or she may be found in contempt of court and thrown in jail. There may be other punishments levied against the offender, depending on where you live. In North Carolina, for example, your driver's license may be suspended and the debt may be added to your credit report.
When it comes to your immigration statues, the arrearage can hurt you in two ways. The USCIS may consider the non-payment to be a sign you are unable or unwilling to comply with the laws in the land. Second, being sentenced to jail time because of the child support arrearage may count against you as well.
Like with back taxes, owing child support won't result in an automatic denial or deportation. If you can show you're resolving the issue or you have a good reason for not paying the money, the USCIS agent may overlook the problem. For example, if you didn't have the money to pay because you were unemployed for a period of time, the agent may not hold the arrearage against you.
As mentioned previously, debt is typically a civil matter and will only affect your immigration status if the problem results in criminal charges. As such, there may be other debts that could fall into this category, such as those that result from committing fraud or causing an accident while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It's best to consult with an immigration attorney about this issue if you feel you may be at risk of being denied citizenship or deported because of your debts. Contact a local law firm like Tesoroni & Leroy to learn more.