An alien is any individual who is not a US citizen or US national. A nonresident alien is an alien who does not hold a green card and does not pass the “substantial presence” test.

You must file a return if you are a nonresident alien engaged or considered to be engaged in a trade or business in the United States during the year. However, if your only US-sourced income is wages in an amount less than the personal exemption amount (see Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information), you are not required to file.

Even if you are not engaged in a trade or business in the United States, you must file a return if you have US income on which the tax liability was not satisfied by the withholding of tax at the source.

You also must file an income tax return if you want to claim a refund of excess withholding or want to claim the benefit of any deductions of credits (for example, if you have income from rental property that you choose to treat as income connected to a trade or business).


F-1 and J-1 students are generally classified as non-resident aliens for first five years in the US.

J-1 scholars are generally classified as non-resident aliens for first two years in the US.


Who is a Non-Resident Alien (NRA)?

Anyone who is not a US citizen or lawful permanent resident is considered a “non-resident alien” under the language of the US tax code.

What is the different between a “non-resident” and “resident” alien for tax purposes?

Non-resident aliens are taxed on income only from US sources using a special tax rate withholding, report, and filing. Resident aliens are taxed as US citizens and have to report all worldwide income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

What is the “Substantial Presence Test” (SPT)?

You will be considered a US resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the current calendar year. The test counts how many days you have been present in the US. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the US for at least:
  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the previous 3-year period, counting:
    1. a. All the days you were present in the current year, and
    2. b. 1/3 of the days you were present in the first prior year, and
    3. c. 1/6 of the days you were present in the second prior year.

What is a tax treaty?

The US has income tax treaties with a number of foreign countries. Under these treaties, residents (not necessarily citizens) of foreign countries are taxed at a reduced rate, or are exempt from US income taxes on certain income they receive from sources within the US. These reduced rates and exemptions vary among countries and specific items of income.

Is money I receive from my parents from abroad taxable?

No. This money is considered foreign-source income and will not be taxed if you are considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes.

Do I need a Social Security Number to file my US tax return?

Yes, you need an SSN if you are employed in the US. If you are not eligible to receive an SSN, you must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Do I have to pay taxes on my scholarship?

If you receive a scholarship from your home country, it is considered foreign source income and is not taxable. If your scholarship is from a source within the US, it is subject to US taxes.

What is a Form W-2?

This form is an official report sent by an employer to report an employee’s annual wages and the amount of federal, state, and other taxes withheld from each paycheck. Employee compensation paid to a non-resident alien without a tax treaty is also reported on a W-2.

What is a Form 1042-S?

Form 1042-S (Information for Nonresident Aliens) is created for anyone considered a nonresident alien for US tax purposes who received payments from the University for fellowship/scholarship, independent contracted services, or royalties as well as anyone with a benefit under a tax treaty with their resident country.

Tax Services manages the 1042-S process for UAB.

I have not received form W-2 and/or 1042-S, what should I do?

  • Form W-2: you can reprint your W-2 in oracle system, under “UAB Self-Service Applications”
  • Form 1042-S: contact Aston Manotai at to reprint the form for you.

My friend filed Form 1040 and received a larger refund. Can I do that too?

Not legally. If you are a non-resident alien you must file 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Failure to file the correct form is fraud and can place your immigration status in jeopardy.

I did not work in the United States this year and I did not receive any scholarships from any U.S. sources. What should I do?

If you were present in the U.S. in F or J immigration status during the year but had no U.S. source of income, you must file Form 8843.

Where do I mail my tax forms?

Federal Tax Return:
Department of Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, TX 73301-0215

State Tax Return:
Alabama Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 327469
Montgomery, AL