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Tax Obligations for International Students / F1 Visa Holders

Did you know that the United States law requires you to file your tax return as an international student to be in good legal standing for your F1 visa status? You are required to file your tax return whether you earned an income or not. And, contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have a social security number to do this. Besides the obvious benefit of being eligible for a tax refund, filing your tax return will also make it easier for those who are interested in working in the US after finishing their studies to transition from an F1 visa to an H1B visa. Here is the list of documents you need to file your tax return, whether you are employed or not: Passport Form I-20 Form I-94 Social Security /ITIN Numbers (for those who have) Income Documents (For those who earn income from a business or trade inside the United States) Tax Obligations for Non-residents who did not earn any income If you are a non-resident and you are not earning any income from the United States, at the bare minimum, you are required to fill out Form 8843. Form 8843 is a simple and straightforward form to be used by foreign nationals to document the number of days spent outside the US to determine your tax responsibility. Those on F1, F2, J1, J2 or Q visas MUST fill out this form unless you have lived in the US for more than five years. The completed form must be mailed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) before the tax return deadline which is on April 15th every year. To obtain this form, please visit www.irs.org.


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Tax Obligations for Non-residents who have earned or are earning income in the United States Non-residents who earn an income in the United States must at least fill out Form 1040-NR. This is the IRS income tax return for non-resident aliens who have engaged in or earned income from a trade or business inside the United States. To have earned income in the United States means that you received any amount of money above $ 0 from a business/company or an institution within the United States in the form of wages, taxable stipend, grant, scholarship, awards, interest, rentals, royalty, or other income. For an exhaustive list, please visit www.irs.org. Income that does not require filing Form 1040-NR include: scholarship for tuition and related expenses, scholarship received from outside the United States, money transferred from parents/relatives overseas, income ‘earned’ in your home country (investment income, rent, job before moving to the US, etc.), interest on a regular savings account. Again, visit the IRS website for a full list of exemptions. Next Steps For those who have failed to file their tax return for previous years, you can still file them along with 2019. If you are eligible for a tax refund, it will take between 6 weeks to 6 months after filing the return to get your refund. Caution! Please note that taxes are filed individually. You are not allowed to file for your spouse, partner, friends or roommates. Do not get scammed. The IRS will rarely call individual taxpayers to follow up on taxes owed. The IRS will also never call you to ask for gift cards or cash to make your tax obligations go away. Please note, this article cannot be used as legal advice or as a guide to tax requirements and obligations. If you need legal advice, please call a lawyer or visit your nearest IRS office for help.

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