Nonresident Alien

What Is a Nonresident Alien?

According to the IRS, a nonresident alien is an alien—defined as anyone who is not a US citizen or national—who has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.

New arrivals on a J-1 or F-1 visa are generally classified as nonresident aliens. Additionally, students on these visas will stay classified as nonresident aliens until they pass the substantial presence test.

This classification is an important distinction for tax filing purposes.

What Is the Difference Between Resident Aliens and Nonresident Aliens?

The difference between resident aliens and nonresident aliens hinges on the green card and substantial presence tests. If an individual passes either of those tests, they will gain resident alien status for one calendar year.

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Can Nonresident Aliens Work in the US?

Nonresident aliens can work in the US after they have been authorized. They can become authorized by filling out Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This form confirms the alien is who they say they are and is eligible for employment.

What Documentation Is Required to Employ Nonresident Aliens in the US?

Along with Form I-9, resident and nonresident aliens must also submit identification documents. For nonresident aliens, these documents may include:

If those documents are unavailable, applicants can also provide a combination of identification and employment eligibility documents, which may include:

Identification Documents

Employment Eligibility Documents

How Are Nonresident Aliens Taxed?

If an employee is any of the following, they must file a tax return:

Any employee who meets one of these qualifications must file Form 1040-NR. If they have no dependents to claim, then they must complete Form 1040-NR-EZ.

With these forms, nonresident aliens must pay taxes on income connected with a trade or business in the US. Taxes also apply to income that is fixed, determinable, annual, or periodical.

When an alien leaves the US, they must file Form 1040-C, the US Departing Alien Income Tax Return. This reports all income received for the entire tax year and pays the tax liability.

Do Nonresident Aliens Have Social Security Numbers?

Nonresident aliens can get a Social Security number (SSN). This is required if they wish to work in the US.

To get an SSN, nonresident aliens can apply through two different methods:

  1. While being lawfully present in the US, submit a request for an SSN while applying for work authorization from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. This can be completed with Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization.
  2. While being lawfully present in the US and carrying a visa status that allows you to work, visit a Social Security office in person.