InternationalStudent.com InternationalStudent.com
Sign in to Your Account Done
Forgot account info?

Don't have an Account?

Register Now!

Done USA School Search

Tax Filing Step-by-Step


If you are an international student or scholar, follow these steps to file a tax return:

Generally, most international students who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered nonresident aliens for tax purposes. International students on F1 visas are automatically considered non-resident aliens for their first 5 calendar years in the US, and scholars (and their dependents) on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for their first 2 calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the 5 or 2 calendar years, the Substantial Presence Test if will be the formula to determine if you should be taxed as a resident or nonresident alien.

I am a nonresident.

ALL nonresidents MUST fill out Form 8843, which essentially proves that you’re a nonresident. Additionally, all F-2 and J-2 visa holders must file the same form separately regardless of age and income.

I am a resident for tax purposes.

If you file as a resident, you will be required to declare both your US and your worldwide income. Therefore, before filing as a resident, check to see if you qualify for the Closer Connection Exception. If you still believe you qualify as a resident, you should file a tax return as if you were an American citizen. You can do so for free at the IRS website, or you can use one of the many aforementioned tax preparation program.

Be advised that the factors determining whether you made money from American sources is different for nonresidents than that which applies to residents. If you do have US source income, it will probably come from wages, scholarships, and/or bank interest. (See the entire list of taxable sources ).

In addition to the links provided below to download each form, the IRS provides instructions for filling out most forms as well. The instructions can be found by going to the IRS website, and then searching by form number.

You may need to fill out some or all of the following forms:

Form Purpose Requires additional form? More information
Form 8843 Declaring your nonresident status No Mandatory for all nonresident aliens, even if you didn’t have any US source income. A SSN or an ITIN is not required.
Form 1040-NR Declaring your US source income and determining how much taxes you owe on that income. No Mandatory for all nonresidents with US source income. Requires a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
Form 1040NR-EZ Simplified version of the 1040-NR. Most international students can use this form. No Requires a SSN or ITIN.
Form W-7* Application for an ITIN. Yes; see below. You do not need to submit this form if you already have an ITIN or a SSN.
Form 843 Request for a refund of Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld. Yes; you must also submit form Form 8316.
8233 Request for a tax treaty benefit on salary earned. Yes; submit also a Country-Specific Statement found in Appendix A of Publication 519, US Tax Guide for Aliens. Submit this form to your employer, NOT the IRS.
W-8BEN Request for a tax treaty benefit on scholarship money. No Submit this form to the organization that pays your scholarship, NOT the IRS.
State-level return Pay taxes owed to the state rather than the federal government. Depends on your tax situation and the state. Consult your international student advisor about whether you have to file state tax returns and what forms to fill out.

*If you’re submitting Form W-7, you must also submit proof of identity and foreign status. This is to be done through your Designated School Official (DSO) at your school, who can provide letters authenticating your identity and certificated copies of your documents. The following is a list of documents your DSO may require to issue this certification, but check with an international student advisor to be sure:

  • Photo copy of your Passport
  • Photocopy of your visa
  • Photocopy of your I-20
  • Admission or scholarship award letter

*If you’re submitting Form W-7, you must also submit proof of identity and foreign status. This is to be done through your Designated School Official (DSO) at your school, who can provide letters authenticating your identity and certificated copies of your documents. The following is a list of documents your DSO may require to issue this certification, but check with an international student advisor to be sure.

  • Photo copy of your Passport
  • Photocopy of your visa
  • Photocopy of your I-20
  • Admission or scholarship award letter

You will need the following documents to properly fill out your tax forms or to submit to tax preparation services such as Sprintax. Copies of each of these forms must be sent with your federal and state tax returns.

Form Purpose Sent By
W-2 Your employer reports wages you earned and taxes withheld from those wages. Jan. 31st
1099 Your bank reports interest earned on your accounts. Jan. 31st
1042-S Reports wages paid to you if you already claimed a tax treaty benefit, and scholarship income that was used for expenses other than tuition and fees (such as room and board or travel). March 15th

Once all the forms have been filled out properly, you will know if you owe taxes or if the government owes you a refund. If you need to pay, the best option is to enclose a check with your tax documents, because you will have to file by mail (see step 7).

Before finally mailing off your documents, make sure the following items are correct on all the forms:

  • Your name and either SSN or ITIN appears on every page (unless you are applying for an ITIN, and therefore don’t have one yet).
  • Your mailing address is correct on every form so you can receive your refund check.
  • Double-check the math on every form.

Nonresidents are not allowed to file electronically. Therefore, you must mail hardcopy documents to the correct address. It is important to send the files to the correct address; otherwise, you risk being fined for filing a late return. Remember the deadlines!

Forms to be Filed Address Deadline
ONLY Form 8843 Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, Texas
73301-0215
June 15th,
Forms 8843 and 1040-NR, and others if appropriate (NOT filing a W-7, NOT enclosing a payment) Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, Texas
73301-0215
April 18th,
Forms 8843 and 1040-NR WITH PAYMENT ENCLOSED Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 1303
Charlotte, North Carolina
28201-1303
April 18th,
Form W-7, along with all required tax return forms, including payment Internal Revenue Service
ITIN Operation
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, Texas 78714
April 18th,
State tax return forms Consult your International Student Advisor for the mailing address for your state tax returns. State filing deadlines vary, but it is best to file your state taxes at the same time as your federal taxes.

It is recommended that you keep tax documents for at least seven years in case the IRS makes a claim.

Further Information

Have more questions about your taxes?

Get started with Sprintax

Related Content:

Get the International Student Newsletter!