Frequently Asked Questions (Foreign Nationals)

Am I considered a non-resident alien or resident alien for tax purposes?

A non-resident alien is a foreign national on a temporary visa who is not making a permanent home in the U.S. To determine whether you are a "resident" or a "non-resident alien" see IRS Publications 515 Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities and 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens or call (899) 829-1040. IRS Publications listing page

I am a non-resident alien. What do I need to do to get paid?

When you have completed the necessary paperwork with your project or department and human resources, you need to see the non-resident alien tax specialist in the Payroll Department (located in Maher Hall 112) to complete the required forms to ensure proper tax reporting and withholding. You may reach the Payroll Department by phone at (619) 260-4818, or via email at to ask questions or to make an appointment.

Am I limited in how long I can work?

Student Employees

NRA student employees may work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. When school is not in session (i.e. winter break, summer if not enrolled) an NRA student may work any number of hours. Working in excess of 20 hours per week while school is in session is prohibited by the U.S. Department of Justice and could endanger visa status.

Non-student Employees

NRA non-student employees are not limited to a certain number of hours per week, but type and duration of employment is limited by visa type.

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May I continue to work if my visa or work authorization has expired?

No, under no circumstances may you continue to work unless you submit a proof of extension or an application for an extension to the human resources department located in Maher 101. An application for an extension of the Employment Authorization Card is not acceptable. Also, if you are changing your visa type, you may not work in the interval between the expiration of the prior visa type and the receipt of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval for the visa type.

The following documents require re-verification upon expiration:

  • I-20 (F-1 visa)
  • IAP-66 (J-1 visa)
  • I-797 (H-1B visa)
  • I-94 Card showing TN (Trade-Nafta), Canada, or Mexico only
  • INS stamp "In process for I-551"
  • "Conditional" Resident Alien Cards (valid only for 2 years from issue)

Bring your new document(s) to the human resources (Maher 101) and payroll offices (Hughes 203) as soon as you receive it to ensure your pay is not interrupted.

Are NRAs automatically exempt from FICA?

No, your visa type determines what taxes must be withheld from your wages. The list below describes the FICA - OASDI and Medicare for each visa type.

  • F-1 Exempt for the first five (5) years from date of entry; thereafter may be exempt based on student enrollment.
  • J-1 Students Exempt for the first five (5) years from date of entry; thereafter may be exempt based on student enrollment.
  • J-1 Scholars, Researchers Exempt for either the first two (2) calendar years in the U.S., or two (2) out of the first six (6) calendar years in the U.S. regardless of visa status.
  • H-1B Must pay FICA and Medicare.

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What is an NRA W-4 Form and how do I fill it out?

You must file an NRA W-4 form to declare your federal tax withholding status. If you are an NRA completing the NRA W-4 form, you:

  • May not claim "Married"
  • May not claim "Exempt"
  • May not claim more than "1" allowance (unless you are a resident of Canada, Japan, Mexico, or the Republic of Korea, in which case you may claim any number of allowances.)
  • Must indicate "NRA" on the dotted line on line 6

Note: If you are a resident alien for tax purposes, the NRA W-4 may be completed at your discretion.

If you are exempt due to a tax treaty, you must also submit Form 8233, which is available from the NRA Tax Specialist, in order to allow the Payroll Department to report you as "exempt" from federal income tax withholding.

What is a tax treaty and how does it apply with respect to wages paid to NRAs?

A tax treaty is an agreement entered into between governments under which each country agrees to limit or modify the application of its domestic tax laws in an attempt to avoid double taxation of income - that is, having the same income taxed by both countries. Tax treaties vary, but they generally limit or exempt U.S. taxation of compensation made to residents of the foreign country. Some tax treaties are limited to an amount of time per year, and/or a limited dollar amount per year. Wages earned beyond either limit are subject to federal income tax withholding. See IRS Publication 901 U.S. Tax Treaties for additional information.

What is IRS Form 8233 Exemption from Withholding on Compensation for Independent Personal Services of a Nonresident Alien Individual and when do I have to submit it?

Form 8233 allows eligible visa holders to claim "exempt" from federal withholding on earnings as allowed by certain tax treaties. Eligibility is based on visa status and the substantial presence test. If eligible, you need to submit Form 8233 when you are hired or rehired, whenever you change job types or visa types, and each December for the upcoming calendar year if the tax treaty is to be applied. If an 8233 is not filed, the tax treaty will not be applied.

Scholarship and Fellowship Information:

Taxation of Scholarship and Fellowships Chart

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How do I complete IRS Form 8233?

You must contact the NRA Tax Specialist in the Payroll Department for verification of eligibility. If eligible, you will be required to come to the Payroll Department (Maher Hall 112) to complete the necessary paperwork. Contact the Payroll Department by phone at (619) 260-4818, or via email at to schedule an appointment.

When do I have to submit a Foreign National Information Form?

A Foreign National Information Form is an information form that payroll office requires from you in order to ensure that your wages are reported and taxed correctly. You must complete a Foreign National Information Form when you are hired or change visa types. Stop by the Payroll Department to obtain and complete this form.

Why is tax being withheld from my check if I already completed a tax treaty form and returned it to the Payroll Department?

The most common reason for delays in processing tax treaty forms is a missing social security number. If you did not have this number at the time you completed the form, it is being held for processing. If this is the case, please send a copy of your social security card to the Payroll Department or deliver a copy during business hours. If this is not the case, contact the NRA Tax Specialist by phone at (619) 260-2735, or via email at

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What is a Form DE-4 and do I have to fill it out?

Tax treaties apply to federal taxes only; you are still required to follow state tax requirements. The DE-4 form (PDF) is the tax withholding certificate for the State of California. The same allowance you claim on the NRA W-4 form will be applied to your State of California taxes.

If I am exempt per a treaty, why is a W-4 also required?

When the tax treaty provisions expire or reach the dollar limit within the calendar year, the Payroll Department will begin taxing your wages as per the W-4 on file.

With which countries does the United States currently have a tax treaty?

Refer to IRS 901 U.S. Tax Treaties for current tax treaty countries or call the IRS at (800) 829-1040.

Does USD report my income to the Internal Revenue Service?

Yes, the IRS requires that both taxable and non-taxable payments made to non-resident aliens be reported on either Form W-2 or Form 1042-S. These forms are mailed out to you by January 31st of every year.

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