Paying taxes may help undocumented workers get legal stay in US

Posted at 02/20/2013 3:14 PM | Updated as of 02/21/2013 9:15 AM

CERRITOS, California - For most of the year, a personal chef who goes by the name violet, lives in the shadows.

She's been living in the US for 8 years, despite having her petition denied.

Even though she has no legal status, she comes out once a year to file her taxes.

“When we arrived here in the states we started to file our papers but unfortunately, we have a problem. But I have a good job offer so sayang din, we have a family back home, kailangan talaga mag trabaho, so our responsibility, we have to follow here, we have to pay our taxes for the government,” said Violet.

With lawmakers considering a pathway to legalization for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, immigration advocate lawyers believe that one of the keys to a legal stay may come during tax season.
 
Attorney Joyce Noche of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) advises undocumented workers to file taxes as proof of residency and good moral standing.

“Tax returns are usually good evidence to show that someone's been living here in the United States, and if anything, if legalization or amnesty is passed, people will need to provide documentation of their presence in the United States, possibly going back to 5 or 7 or even 10 years, so tax returns could prove that,” said Noche.
 
Undocumented workers can file taxes by using a Tax ID number or TIN. To get a Tax ID Number, a tax payer needs to fill out an application on the Internal revenue service's website at irs.gov, or can get one through an accountant.

Accountant Manny Legaspi explains, the TIN is typically used by foreign investors, as well as guest workers, and employers. He says the IRS will not reveal a taxpayer's legal status to immigration officials and the use of a TIN number does not affect the amount of taxes someone would pay or refunds they would receive.

“The IRS doesn't really care, if you are a resident alien or illegal alien as long as you file your taxes. You're good,” said Legaspi.

Violet says she's filed for the past 8 years since she arrived in the US. She remains optimistic that her tax records could help prove her stay in the US, but she's also hopeful that some of her tax refunds can pay for a plane ticket for a vacation back to the Philippines, if her stay gets legalized.

The deadline to file taxes or request an extension this year is April 15 (Monday).