Am I a resident alien or nonresident alien? What's the difference?

There are two tests to determine whether a non-U.S. citizen is treated as a resident alien for tax purposes. The first test is the "green card" test test and the second test is the "substantial presence" test. If you are in the U.S. for less than 31 days, you do not need to count days towards the substantial presence test. If you are in the U.S. for 183 days or more, you may become a Resident Alien in the U.S. depending on several factors. Generally, an F-1 or J-1 student visa holder is exempt from counting days towards the substantial presence test for 5 years. They will become a resident alien in their 6th year after they have been in the U.S. for 183 days. A J-1 teacher/researcher visa holder is exempt from counting days in the U.S . for 2 calendar years. They will become a resident alien after they have reached 183 days in their 3rd year. These are general rules and the actual calculation is more complicated and depends on many factors including immigration status and previous visits to the U.S.

There are two different set of rules for taxing resident aliens and for taxing nonresident aliens. Resident aliens are taxed just like U.S. citizens and are subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income. Nonresident aliens are taxed on their U.S. sourced income.

When should I file a U.S. tax return?

A U.S. tax return must be postmarked by April 15th each year. U.S. citizens, Resident Aliens, and Permanent Resident Aliens can e-file their 1040-EZ/1040A/ 1040 Form to the IRS. Nonresident aliens must mail their 1040NR-EZ or 1040NR and 8843 Form to the IRS.

Who should file a tax return?

In 2006, the IRS changed the rules for nonresident aliens. If you are a nonresident alien, and your wages falls below the annual IRS exemption amount (for 2016, it is $4,050.00), you do not need to file a 1040NR tax return (does not apply to independent contractors). However, a nonresident alien should file an 8843 Form each year. This form is a basic count of your days in the U.S. It is important to file each year, in particular for the USCIS should you ever wish to apply for your permanent residency, or wish to return to the U.S. for subsequent visits.

Our tax software (FNTR) that we provide our international students and scholars will assist you in completing your tax return and 8843 Form. Make an appointment in February through April of every year and we can help prepare your tax return.

Which countries have income tax treaties with US.?

You can look up the countries that the U.S. has tax treaties with in the IRS Publication 901. Visit our Other Resources page for more information.

What benefits do I have if my country is in this list?

You may limit some or all of the federal income tax that you have to pay on your wages in the U.S. If you have taxable scholarships (money received to pay for your living expenses, misc items, etc.), there may be a treaty available so you do not have to pay 14% tax on that income. If there is a treaty, and you qualify the requirements to take that benefit, you can sign a 8233 Form and attachments with the Nonresident Alien Tax Specialist (NRAT). The 8233 Form and attachments are sent to the IRS for approval. The 8233 Form is only good for one calendar year. If you wish to take the treaty benefit each year, you will need to meet with the NRAT before the start of the next calendar year so that a new form can be sent to the IRS. If you forget to sign up for the treaty benefit with the NRAT (tax withholding agent), you can take the tax treaty benefit if you qualify when you complete your annual tax return. You will need a U.S. SSN or ITIN to apply for treaty benefits.

What is the minimum taxable amount?

It depends what type of income and your individual tax status in the U.S. If you are a nonresident alien, and your income is less than $4,050.00 (exemption for 2016), you will not owe federal income tax in the U.S. You may be subject to withholding tax on your wages, but a withholding tax is only an estimate. The actual amount of tax you owe for the calendar year is not determined until you file your annual U.S. tax return. Any overwithheld taxes will be refunded to you by the IRS, and you would be responsible for paying the IRS if you did not have enough taxes withheld. FICA and Medicare Taxes (Social Security Administration) are 7.65%, and are also withheld from your payroll wages if you are a U.S. citizen or Resident Alien.

What if I was late filing my U.S. tax return?

If you do not file, the IRS may assess interest and penalties on the tax owed. If you do not file, the statute of limitations does not run out, and the audit period does not close, and the time does not start.

I have moved, where do I change my address?

Download the PDF for more information on how to change your address and other personal information.

If I have more questions how and when can I arrange a meeting with you?

You can see the Nonresident Alien Tax Specialist by appointment. Refer to the website for the current hours. We are located in the Student Services Complex (SSC-A), Room 131. You can email your questions and schedule appointments at