Tax information for international students and scholars

As an international student or scholar in the US, it's very important that you comply with US tax law and understand the tax filing requirements of your visa. All international students are required to comply with all US laws, which includes tax laws. Filing a tax return is part of maintaining your visa status in the US.

Deadline for 2020– Due to COVID-19, the IRS has moved the tax filing deadline for this year only from April 15 to July 15.  Deadline: Your taxes MUST be in the mail by July 15 to avoid any possible late fee from the IRS.

Detailed information about international students and taxes

We have arranged discounted access to Sprintax to guide you through the process. 

See the FREE webinar from Sprintax. To see How to file your taxes view the drop down below for details. 

No matter which method you use to pay your taxes, be sure to keep a copy of your tax return for your records.

These are forms that international students commonly use to FILE taxes:

  • Form 8843: Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition (for use by alien individuals only).
    • This form is the formal declaration that you are an international student and you did not have any income. This is the MINIMUM form required.
  • Form 10404NR: US Non-Resident Alien Income Tax Return.
  • Form 1040NR-EZ: US Income Tax return for Certain Nonresident Aliens with No Dependents.
  • Form 8822: Change of Address

Please go to the IRS website for additional information and instructions for each form.

Note: All forms should have the date of 2019, as you are reporting income earned in that year.

If you were in the US at any time in 2019 you are required to file tax related documents (often called a “tax return”) even if you did not earn any taxable income.

If any of the following circumstances apply to you, you must file a US tax return:

  • You worked in the US at any time between January 1 and December 31, 2019
  • You received a stipend, grant, or allowance in the past year
  • You had no income.
    • Even if you did not work or receive income in the US you're still legally obliged to file Form 8843.  This from declares that you are an international student.

Everyone has some type of filing obligation.

  • The minimum you should file is the Form 8843, even if you had no income.
  • Otherwise, you will probably use a 1040NR or a 1040NR-EZ, if applicable.

You are considered a nonresident alien for tax purposes, unless you meet one of two tests:

  1. If you have a green card (that is, you are a Lawful Permanent Resident and have been issued a “green card”: Form I-551 at any time during the tax year) you will file taxes in the same way as a US citizen.
  2. If you meet the substantial presence test, you will file taxes as a US Resident for Tax Purposes.

You will be considered a United States Resident for Tax Purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States on at least:

  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
    • All the days you were present in the current year, and
    • 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
    • 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.


You were physically present in the U.S. on 120 days in each of the years 2012, 2013, and 2014. To determine if you meet the substantial presence test for 2014, count the full 120 days of presence in 2014, 40 days in 2013 (1/3 of 120), and 20 days in 2012 (1/6 of 120). Since the total for the 3-year period is 180 days, you are not considered a resident under the substantial presence test for 2014.

NOTE: Residency for Tax Purposes does not imply Permanent Residency.  An individual on a non-immigrant visa may be treated as a resident for tax purposes.

In general, most international students & scholars who are on F or J visas will be considered nonresident for tax purposes, but you should check the Substantial Presence Test if you have been in the US for more than 5 years (students on F-1 or J-1) or for more than 2 of the last 6 years (scholars on J visas):

  • International students on J-1 & F-1 visas are automatically considered nonresident for their first 5 calendar years in the US.
  • Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered nonresidents for 2 out of the last 6 calendar years in the US

In 2020, your taxes MUST be in the mail by April 15, 2020 to avoid any possible late fee from the IRS. The envelope must be postmarked on or before April 15.

This deadline is not flexible.

If you know that you will be late filing your taxes, you will need to file the Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Income Tax Return. You may be able to get a 6-month extension of time to file: but you STILL HAVE TO FILE, and you have to file Form 4868 by April 15, 2020.

  • Any taxable earnings or income over $1, earned in 2019
  • Any taxable stipend, grant, or allowance in 2019

Income is taxed by the federal, state, and local governments. Some wages are also taxed for social security and Medicare benefits - though a non-resident taxpayer may be exempt from these.

You have several options:

  1. Go to one of the free open sessions hosted by the College of Business Administration (CBA).
    • UA’s College of Business Administration will host FREE open tax sessions for ALL students (not just international students).
    • No appointment required, but we recommend you come early.
    • CBA will help you mail your return.
    • If the CBA completes a W7 for you as part of your tax return and you do not have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) bring your documents and your tax return to the International Center ASAP so we can produce the necessary certification letter that you need to include with your tax return.   Do this asap, as it will take us time to produce the letter and your tax return MUST be in the mail before April 15.

You can go to any of these sessions, but you must be sure to identify as international so you can be sure you meet with the right advisors. 

  1. Go to the free session for students who didn’t have income last year, to file Form 8843.
    • CBA will offer a free separate session only for International students who didn’t have income last year and need to file a form 8843.  
    • In Bierce Library 154
      • Thursday, February 20 at 4 p.m.
      • Tuesday, March 31 at 4 p.m.
    • No ITIN or Social Security Number is required to file Form 8843.

You can go to the other CBA sessions if you wish but this session is dedicated to students who did not have income and need to file form 8843.  If you have a W2 and/or a 1042S/1099 you should go to the other sessions, or file using the software (details below).

  1. File your taxes using online software: Sprintax
    • We have partnered with Sprintax to offer specialized assistance to international students/scholars.
    • All you need to do:
      • Register and follow the simple instructions
      • Complete the online questionnaire (check the list below of what you'll need to file your taxes to make sure you have everything required)
      • Enter the unique discount code that we will send to your UA email in the box on the "Review you order" page at the end of the process (this discount code is only for UA students and is not to be shared. The discount will give you $5 off your federal tax return).
      • Sprintax will prepare you tax forms.
      • Print out your return, attach the necessary paperwork, sign it and mail it in.
      • If you have questions, use Sprintax’s live chat function and talk to someone on the Sprintax team.
    • Your tax return does not submit automatically from the software. Be sure to mail it before April 15, 2020.
    • If you need to file as a “resident for tax purposes” you cannot use this software and will need to go to either CBA or use software (such as TurboTax) that US students use. 

  1. Go to a local tax provider in the Akron community.

You will have to pay for their services and be sure to confirm that they understand how to file international student taxes.  This option may be most useful for people who need to file as US Residents for Tax Purposes.

No matter how you decide to file your taxes you will need to bring the following documents:

  • Passport with current visa
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • hI-94 entry/exit history. Click on “view travel history" you will need your travel history to determine whether you are considered a resident for tax purposes.
  • All tax forms received – W2, 1042S and/or 1099, and any others, such as investment summaries.
    • If you work, you should have a social security number (SSN) already.
    • If not you’ll need an ITIN. If you complete a W7 for you as part of your tax return and you do not have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) bring your documents and your tax return to the International Center ASAP so we can produce the necessary certification letter that you need to include with your tax return. Do this asap, as it will take us time to produce the letter and your tax return MUST be in the mail before April 15.
  • Bank account info (or mailing address) for refunds
  • Any past returns, for reference

These are tax forms that international students commonly RECEIVE.  You may receive all or none of these, depending on the work you did in the past year.

  • W2 – shows your wages, salary, compensation. Must be mailed to you by your employer(s) by January 31 each year
  • 1042S – shows your scholarships, stipends, non-degree aid, prizes etc. Also shows tax treaty benefits.  Must be mailed to you by March 15 each year.
  • 1099 Series – shows other income, including independent contractor services
  • 1098T – this is a tuition statement. This form is NOT relevant for non-residents. If you receive one, you should keep it in a safe place, but you do not need it to complete your tax return.
  • 1095-A, -B, -C – these are healthcare forms and are generally not relevant to international students/scholars. If you are a US Resident for Tax Purposes and you receive this form, be sure to keep it somewhere safe as you may need it in the future.

  • Your dependents should also file taxes, and again, the minimum requirement is the Form 8843
  • You cannot file a joint tax return
  • Each tax return must be mailed in a separate envelope
  • A non-resident can elect to file as a resident for tax purposes if they are married to a tax resident.

If you receive a refund, it should arrive somewhere between 6 weeks and 6 months after you have filed your taxes. If you wish you can have it deposited directly into your bank account.

To determine the status of your refund check Where’s My Refund?

  • If you move, be sure to notify the post office to forward your mail to your new address BUT be aware, not all post offices will forward government checks, so your refund may not arrive. You may prefer to have your refund deposited directly into your bank account.
  • You can change your address with the IRS. Use form 8822

Don't panic, but do set the record straight by filing your taxes now.

  • You can “back file” at any stage, but you can only claim a refund for the past 3 years.
  • Remember, if you owed money you will still owe that money, even if you file late.
    • CBA can help you file past-due taxes.
    • Come to one of the free tax sessions, held on Saturdays in February and March.
  • If you misfiled, use form 1040X to amend your return.

Unfortunately, there are individuals who try to take advantage of the complicated US tax code by threatening those who may not understand how US taxes work. If you receive a phone call or letter from someone saying they are from the IRS, please remember the following:

  • Always use caution and common sense.
  • The IRS will not ask for personal information.
  • The IRS will not threaten your immigration status, or that of your family members.
  • The IRS will not call or email you. They will send you letters ONLY. These letters will come in an official IRS envelope.
  • The IRS does not accept instant payments through vouchers or gift cards EVER.

If you receive something that says it’s from the IRS but you are not sure, come to the International Center, and ask!

► See our webpage detailing how to be aware of scams and how to prevent them.