Helm US Tax


Mastering Taxation Essential Insights for Green Card Applicants


Mastering Taxation Essential Insights for Green Card Applicants

Good to know before applying for Green Card

The United States, known as the land of opportunity, is an attractive destination for many foreigners seeking a better quality of life, higher income, or simply a new beginning. Investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, and families alike view the country as an ideal place to realize their dreams or further their careers. The economic strength, high quality of life, and cultural diversity of the United States attract those seeking change and progress.

However, when people decide to settle in the United States, they often encounter a less exciting but extremely important aspect of moving: taxation. Acquiring a “green card,” or permanent resident status, does not just ensure the right to reside; it also makes the individual a full-fledged taxpayer in the United States. This change can profoundly affect an individual’s or family’s financial planning since the United States’ tax system subjects worldwide income to taxation.

Navigating International Taxation

It is crucial for everyone planning to move to the US to become familiar with their tax obligations and make the necessary preparations in advance. Proper pre-immigration tax planning can help minimize potential tax liabilities, avoid double taxation, and take advantage of opportunities that optimize tax obligations. The “Green Card Test” is a fundamental element of the United States’ taxation system, requiring special attention from anyone who holds or plans to acquire this status. This test clearly determines that permanent resident status (also known as holding a “green card”) automatically imposes tax obligations on the individual in the United States, regardless of where they spend their time or where their income originates.

What is the “Green Card Test”?

The “Green Card Test” is essentially a legal criterion that designates individuals legally residing in the United States as permanent residents as taxpayers every single day of the tax year. This status is granted based on the immigration laws of the United States and materializes in the form of a physical card, commonly referred to as a “green card.”

Optimizing Tax Obligations, key considerations for Green Card applicants

For “green card” holders, this means they must pay taxes in the United States on their worldwide income from all sources. This includes, but is not limited to, wages and salaries; it also encompasses dividends, interest income, real estate revenue, and all other forms of income, regardless of whether they are earned within the United States or abroad.

Tax Planning for Global Citizens

This principle, known as global taxation, means that the United States’ tax authorities (especially the Internal Revenue Service, IRS) treat income earned anywhere in the world as if it were earned within the United States. This approach is not followed by every country, and it is especially important for “green card” holders to be aware of it, as it can have significant tax implications for them.

Tax Optimization Roadmap, double taxation and tax treaties

The risk of double taxation, which arises when a person is taxed by two different countries on the same income, is a common concern for “green card” holders. Fortunately, the United States has entered into tax treaties with many countries to avoid double taxation. These treaties allow taxpayers to claim deductions or credits in the United States for taxes already paid in another country.

Substantial Presence Test

The Substantial Presence Test is a bit more complicated since it is based on specific calculations. According to the test, a person is considered a taxpayer in the United States for a given calendar year if the individual:

  • Spends more than 31 days in the United States in the given year, and
  • The sum of the days spent in the United States in the given year, plus one-third of the days spent in the previous year, plus one-sixth of the days spent the year before last, exceeds 183 days.

This rule allows those who do not have a green card but spend significant time in the United States to understand when they become taxpayers of the country. It’s important to note that there are certain exceptions and mitigations, such as the “exempt individual” status for certain students, researchers, and individuals with specific diplomatic statuses, which can affect the outcome of the test.

The steps for pre-immigration tax planning are critically important for individuals moving to the United States, especially for those who seek a “green card.” This process helps prepare for new tax obligations, minimize potential tax burdens, and take advantage of tax optimization opportunities. Below we detail the steps for pre-immigration tax planning.

Income and Asset Situation Assessment
  • Data Collection: Start by gathering your current sources of income, investments, properties, and other assets. It’s important to note the origin of the income (for example, wages, dividends, interest income), as well as the location and value of the assets.
  • Tax Liability Analysis: Assess your current tax liabilities in the country where you currently live. You should consider local tax laws, including tax rates and any possible tax deductions or exemptions.
  • Tax Planning Goals: Define your tax planning goals, such as avoiding double taxation, taking advantage of tax deductions, and increasing tax efficiency.
Personalized Tax Consultation
  • Expert Selection: Look for tax advisors or accountants who offer expertise in international and United States tax planning. Ideally, choose an expert familiar with both countries’ tax systems.
  • Consultation: Discuss your current financial situation, plans, and goals with the tax advisor. This may include the potential tax implications of applying for a “green card” and strategies to avoid double taxation.
  • Plan Development: With the help of the tax advisor, develop a detailed tax planning plan that considers both pre- and post-immigration tax obligations and opportunities.
Ensuring Financial Success, tax efficiency and avoiding double taxation
  • Tax Treaties Utilization: Inform yourself about tax treaties between the United States and your current place of residence, which could reduce or avoid double taxation
  • Timing of Income and Financial Transactions: Consider the timing of income and other financial transactions to maximize tax efficiency. For example, it may be beneficial to realize certain incomes before moving to the United States.
  • Tax Deductions and Credits: Learn about the tax deductions and credits you may be eligible for in the United States, such as the deduction for taxes paid abroad.

Pre-immigration tax planning can be a complex process, but with the right preparations, it can significantly reduce the tax burden and prevent double taxation. Personalized advice and detailed planning are key to a successful tax strategy.


Optimizing your wealth before moving to America: Essential Pre-Immigration Tax Strategies for Global Families


Optimizing your wealth before moving to America: Essential Pre-Immigration Tax Strategies for Global Families

The importance of pre-immigration planning

When considering relocating to the United States, understanding the nuances of pre-immigration planning is essential. This process involves much more than the physical relocation of belongings; it requires meticulous financial and tax planning. Such planning is crucial for ensuring compliance with US laws and optimizing your financial portfolio within the unique context of US regulations. Effective wealth and tax planning before immigration can significantly ease your transition, allowing for financial stability and success in your new environment.

Strategic financial and tax considerations

  1. Understanding US Tax regulations: It’s vital to grasp how US tax laws will impact your global assets and income. The US tax system is complex, and without proper planning, immigrants can face unexpected tax liabilities or compliance issues.
  2. Developing Tax structures: Essential to your US immigration journey is establishing tax structures that mitigate the risks of double taxation, aligning your global assets and income with US tax obligations to foster efficient management and compliance.
  3. Engaging with professional advisors: Consulting with tax professionals who specialize in US immigration can provide invaluable insights. They can help tailor a tax strategy that aligns with your financial goals and legal requirements.

Case Studies: Real-World Applications

European family offshore trusts

A European family, planning their move to the US, sought to optimize their financial transition with minimal tax disruption. Before becoming US tax residents, they engaged in comprehensive tax planning, focusing on their significant holdings in offshore trusts.

Background: The family had established a series of offshore trusts in jurisdictions known for their favorable tax laws. These trusts held a variety of assets, including investments, real estate, and family businesses, which generated substantial income.

Challenge: The transition to US tax residency posed a significant risk of increased tax liability and compliance complexity due to the U.S. taxation of worldwide income. The family needed to restructure their trusts to prevent adverse tax consequences without compromising their financial goals.


  1. Pre-immigration trust restructuring: The family, with their advisors, reevaluated the trust structures. They created US compliant structures, such as irrevocable non-grantor trusts, to receive the income from their offshore assets, minimizing the tax burden by avoiding direct taxation on the family members.
  2. Utilization of ‘Check the Box’ elections: They made strategic ‘check the box’ elections for certain foreign entities owned by the trusts, allowing them to be treated as disregarded entities or partnerships for US tax purposes, simplifying tax reporting and potentially reducing taxation levels.
  3. Asset realignment: The family realigned their investment strategies to ensure that the trusts’ investments were in US-friendly assets, reducing the potential for punitive taxation and compliance issues.

Outcome: As a result, the family’s transition to US residency was financially seamless, with their wealth efficiently structured to comply with US tax obligations while preserving their financial legacy.

Latin American family American trusts

A wealthy Latin American family, with business and personal ties in the US, faced the challenge of managing their complex international assets while transitioning to US tax residency.

Background: Their asset portfolio included businesses, real estate, and investments across multiple jurisdictions. The family had utilized trusts in their home country to manage these assets, but the impending U.S. tax residency of several family members necessitated a strategic overhaul.

Challenge: The key was to manage the transition without incurring excessive US taxes or jeopardizing their assets’ growth. They needed to ensure that their global wealth was protected and that they complied with US tax laws.


  1. Establishment of US trusts: The family established US trusts to facilitate efficient wealth transfer and tax compliance. These trusts were designed to own foreign and US assets, providing a shield against US estate taxes and enabling tax-efficient distributions to beneficiaries.
  2. International Tax compliance: They ensured that all foreign trusts and financial accounts were compliant with US reporting requirements, including the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
  3. Strategic Tax planning: The family worked with tax advisors to leverage tax treaties between the US and their home countries, minimizing double taxation and aligning their tax strategy with their long-term financial goals.

Outcome: This strategic approach allowed the family to maintain their international business operations and wealth management while ensuring compliance with US tax regulations, thus securing their financial interests and facilitating a smooth transition to US residency.

These case studies illustrate the importance of strategic planning and the benefits of leveraging expert advice in navigating US tax laws.

Ensuring a financially sound transition

By addressing the complexities of US immigration and tax planning proactively, you can secure a financially stable and compliant future in your new home. Seeking guidance from specialized advisors can offer the expertise and support necessary for a successful transition. Whether you are moving to the US for opportunities, family, or personal growth, thorough tax and financial planning is your key to a prosperous future in this new chapter of your life.

Click to access the login or register cheese