What Is a Nonresident Alien?
According to the IRS, a nonresident alien is an alien—defined as anyone who is not a U.S. 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 U.S.?
Nonresident aliens can work in the United States 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 U.S.?
Along with Form I-9, resident and nonresident aliens must also submit identification documents. For nonresident aliens, these documents may include:
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Unexpired Temporary Resident Card
If those documents are unavailable, applicants can also provide a combination of identification and employment eligibility documents, which may include:
- Driver’s license or a state- or federal-issued ID card
- School ID card
Employment Eligibility Documents
- U.S. Social Security card
- Certification of Birth Abroad (Issued by the Department of State)
How Are Nonresident Aliens Taxed?
If an employee is any of the following, they must file a tax return:
- A nonresident alien who has worked for a trade or business in the United States during the year.
- A nonresident alien who has not worked for a trade or business but has a U.S.-sourced income.
- A representative responsible for filing the return of a nonresident alien, as described in the above points.
- A fiduciary of a nonresident alien.
- A resident or domestic fiduciary in charge of the care of a nonresident alien or a property owned by a nonresident alien.
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 United States. Taxes also apply to income that is fixed, determinable, annual, or periodical.
When an alien leaves the United States, they must file Form 1040-C, the U.S. 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 United States.
To get an SSN, nonresident aliens can apply through two different methods:
- While being lawfully present in the United States, submit a request for an SSN while applying for work authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This can be completed with Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization.
- While being lawfully present in the United States and carrying a visa status that allows you to work, visit a Social Security office in person.