Intro to U.S. Income Taxes: Non-Citizens

Updated: May 20

Taxes are one of the most daunting aspects of adulthood, and there are things to know as students that no one ever teaches you. This is your crash course to how taxes work, what resources are available to assist you, and other helpful things to know when Uncle Sam comes knocking!


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Am I a resident for tax purposes?

A: Non-citizens can qualify as a tax resident in any of three ways:


1) You meet the green card test.

You are an "immigrant" (Lawful Permanent Resident) of the United States under the immigration laws of the United States. Aliens who are Immigrants are Resident Aliens of the United States for tax purposes, under the condition that they spend at least one day in the United States.


2) You meet the substantial presence test.

You were in the U.S. on an F, J, Q, or M Student Visa for over 5 years.**

You were in the U.S. on a J Scholar Visa for over 2 years.**

You pass both the 31-day and 183-day tests on a non-student visa.


3) You file as the secondary to your U.S. citizen spouse.


**For the sake of testing residency, one day of the year counts as an entire year, and years do not need to be consecutive.


Q: If I am considered a resident alien, what changes about how I file?

A: Non-citizen residents file using the same Form 1040 as citizens. However, there may be additional agreements between the foreign government and the U.S. for how their foreign citizens are treated for tax purposes. International tax treaties are available at <irs.gov> with applicable topics searchable by their table of contents. Otherwise, resident aliens are treated the same for tax purposes under reciprocity rules.


Q: If I am considered a nonresident alien, what changes about how I file?

A: Nonresidents file using the Form 1040NR. Additionally, nonresidents do not qualify for education, earned income, or other refundable credits.


What else you may need to know about taxes

I. What everyone needs to know

II. What students need to know

III. What you need to know about COVID

VI. What resources you need to know


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