Nonresident Alien Tax FAQs

 Do I need to File Tax Forms? YES!

Q. As a foreign national student with no income or scholarships do I need to file tax forms?
A. Yes. You are required to file form 8843 with the IRS to claim that you are exempt due to the fact that you have not been in the United States long enough to be subject to withholdings.

Q. F-1 and J-1 students and J-1 scholars are “exempt individuals.” Doesn’t this mean we don’t have to pay taxes?
A. “Exempt Individual” means you are exempt from counting days toward the “substantial presence” test – generally for five years if your are a student and two years if you are a scholar. It does NOT mean you have no tax obligations.

Q. The government will automatically take the appropriate amount of taxes from my salary, so I don’t need to take any further action after completing Form W-4, right?
A. The U.S. tax system is based on self-reporting income. The W-4 instructs your employer to withhold a certain amount each pay period toward your tax liability. However, this may not be the exact amount you owe. At the end of the tax year, you must file an income tax return to determine if you will get a refund of some or all of what was withheld from your paycheck, or if you owe additional money.

Q. My country has a tax treaty with the U.S. so I don’t have to pay any taxes.
A. A treaty does not generally exempt an individual totally from taxation. Usually only a portion of income, or income from certain activities, is exempt. It is important to read IRS Publication 901 and/or the treaty itself to obtain full details on your exemption.

Q. Am I required to file state taxes?
A. Yes. If you have earned income and state income tax has been withheld, you will need to file state income taxes.

How Do I File My Taxes?

Q. I don’t know anything about tax law and I am unsure what to do about my tax return filing?
A. You do not need to know anything about tax law. If you are required to submit only Form 8843, instructions are available at our Non-Resident Alien Filing Requirements and Deadlines website.  If you earned income and are a non-resident alien for tax purposes, we strongly encourage you to use Glacier Tax Prep (GTP),   a free tax preparation program specifically designed for non-resident aliens. Virginia State Tax Form 760 must be completed separately.

Q. When will the GTP program be available?
A. GTP should be available late-February or early March.

Q. What forms will I need to complete my tax return?

  • I-20/DS-2019
  • I-94 Arrival Record and Travel History (estimated travel dates in and out of the U.S. during each calendar year)
  • W-2
  • Previous year’s tax return (if you filed)
  • Bank routing and account number (if you expect a return and want it electronically deposited)

Q. I am in the U.S. in non-immigrant status. Therefore, should I file as a Nonresident Alien?
A. Maybe. Individuals who are in non-immigrant immigration status may be Resident Aliens for tax purposes if they meet the “substantial presence” test. Resident and Nonresident status for immigration and taxation purposes are not necessarily the same. Refer to our Resident Alien or Non-Resident Alien for Tax Purposes website.

Q. All my friends are filing income tax Form 1040EZ, which is much easier than Form 1040NR. Can I use this form too?
A. Probably not.  You can use the 1040EZ ONLY if you are a resident for tax purposes. Form 1040EZ can only be used by those who are U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens or residents for tax purposes. Non-resident aliens must use form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ.