All nonimmigrants are required to file some sort of tax form, even if no taxes are owed and no income has been earned in the U.S. Foreign nationals are required to comply with all laws governing them during their stay in the U.S., including the filing of appropriate tax forms.
While the immigration regulations are the laws that first come to mind, the tax regulations cannot be ignored.
The IRS makes you accountable for understanding and complying with your federal income tax responsibilities. IRS requirements may feel unfair or complicated, but failure to comply with the law could result in fines or in denial of immigration benefits.
The Shuford Center for International Education cannot offer tax advice or assistance in completing your tax forms. The following information is intended to serve as a guide only and is not meant to be considered legal advice for your specific situation.
Determining Residency Status for Taxes
It is important to understand if you are considered to be a resident or a nonresident alien for tax purposes. Keep in mind this is different from being a resident alien versus a nonimmigrant under the immigration laws.
View the Foreign Student and Scholar Resource Guide for use in preparing returns for nonresident aliens.
- Step 1: Determine whether you are exempt from Substantial Presence
- Step 2: If you are not exempt, take Substantial Presence Test
- Step 3: Determine your residency for tax purposes
Completing Tax Forms When Starting Employment
If you work in the U.S., your employer is required to report your earnings to the Internal Revenue Service. The employer is also responsible for withholding certain taxes from your pay and forwarding them to the U.S. government on your behalf.
At the start of your employment, you are required to complete certain tax forms to help the employer determine how much should be taken out of your paycheck for taxes. It is important to work with the payroll office when completing these forms:
- Form W-4
- Tax Treaties
- Social Security and Medicare Taxes
- Social Security Totalization Agreements
Tax Filing Obligations
As a foreign national, you are required to file a tax form for each year you are present in the U.S.
In addition to the federal government, state and local governments may also impose tax obligations. States have the authority to impose their own taxes on income.
Type of Income and Forms
- If you have no income or bank interest only, you should complete the Statement for Exempt Individuals.
- If you earn wages or have a scholarship or fellowship, you should complete the Non-resident Alien income tax form.
Federal Filing Deadlines
- April 15 - for tax returns for anyone who received wages
- June 15 - for tax returns for anyone who had no U.S. source income, whose only income was in the form of scholarships or other income not subject to withholding.
The following publications from the Internal Revenue Service may be helpful with federal tax returns:
- Withholding of tax on non-resident aliens and foreign entities
- U.S. tax guide for aliens
- U.S. tax treaties