- About Taxes in the U.S. and FAQs
- How to File: Steps for Fulfilling Tax Requirement
F-1 and J-1 international students and scholars who were present in the U.S. during any portion of the past calendar year may be required to file certain tax forms with the U.S. federal government. This is true whether or not you worked in the U.S., gained income in the U.S., or received a scholarship during the past calendar year.
Important note: The staff at OIA are not trained in taxation, and therefore cannot answer specific tax questions or help you prepare your tax forms. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to meet your tax obligations and do so accurately.
Any of your earnings in the U.S. are subject to applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Filing tax paperwork, such as a tax return, is a reconciliation that compares what you paid in taxes throughout the year to what you should have paid in taxes.
When you start a new job or receive taxable money, you typically will complete Tax Withholding paperwork, which dictates how much tax should be withheld from your payment. Employers and schools then withhold estimated taxes from your paychecks or other taxable income (such as stipend payments). If the estimated taxes that were withheld from your payment are higher than what you should have paid, you will get a refund after filing your tax return ("tax refund"). If taxes were not withheld, or insufficient tax was withheld, then you will owe money at the time of filing your taxes. You declare your income and account for the taxes owed on a form or set of forms called a “tax return.”
Even if you didn't receive any taxable income, you may be required to file some forms with the IRS.
Tax forms may vary depending on your individual residency status for tax purposes and employment status. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an agency of the U.S. government, determines tax residency based on the two classifications outlined below. Before you file your taxes, you must determine your tax residency status, which may be different from your immigration status.
- Residents for tax purposes (also called 'resident alien'): All U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and nonresident aliens for immigration purposes who have met the Substantial Presence Test.
- Non-residents for tax purposes (also called 'nonresident aliens'): all others, regardless of immigration status.
IMPORTANT: The tax residency categories below are for tax purposes only and are NOT related to your immigration status. You may be in F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant status and be considered a resident for tax purposes.
When do I prepare my tax forms?
Most of our international population will file their tax paperwork in March or early April.
If you received taxable income last year, you will need to receive relevant payment documents from your employer or school before you can complete your tax return. Usually, schools and employers provide these tax documents between January and March. They are typically provided by mail, so it is important to keep your address updated with current and former employers.
What is the deadline for filing taxes with the IRS?
The deadline for filing your tax paperwork with the IRS depends on whether or not you received any taxable income in the previous calendar year. You must file your taxes before the tax deadlines listed below:
- If you received taxable income in 2017: April 17, 2018
- If you did not receive taxable income in 2017: June 1, 2018 (*filing form 8843 only)
What if I need more time to file?
You may find that you need additional time to file your taxes. This might be because you are waiting for an ITIN approval or missing some of your necessary documents. If you need additional time to file your federal return, you can file for an Automatic Extension of Time to File Your U.S. Tax Return. You should submit the extension form before the deadline listed above. More information can be found on the IRS link above.
The extension information above is for the federal return only. If you are required to make any state filing(s), you may need to apply for a separate extension. Information about Illinois State tax extensions can be found on the Illinois revenue website. If you received income from other states, you will need to review the regulations for those specific states.
Filing tax documents each year is an important part of maintaining your immigration status and is a federal requirement for international visitors and their dependents. Not filing your required taxes could lead to penalties, such as fines, or even negatively impact your immigration status.
If you apply for future immigration benefits, such as H-1B, Permanent Residency, or other statuses, you will likely be asked to provide copies of tax filings for all previous years you were in the U.S. If you forgot or didn't file in previous years when you should have, the IRS recommends that you file now for previous years. You can find the relevant forms from past years on the IRS website.
The IRS expects you to file your taxes each year. Penalties for late filing may include fines, interest on taxes owed, or other consequences. Visit the IRS website for information on Filing Past Due Tax Returns. You can follow up with the IRS or a foreign tax expert if you have questions.
The steps below provide the basic instructions for meeting your tax obligations. Click on the links throughout the steps for more information and detail:
Before beginning the process of filing a tax return you must first determine whether you are a 'non-resident alien' or a 'resident alien' for tax purposes:
You will need to know whether or not you received taxable income in 2017 before filing your tax paperwork. The most common types of taxable income for our international population include wages or payment received from a job or taxable stipends and awards from the university. Generally speaking tuition waivers for degree seeking students are not taxable. Contact the HR person for your department if you are not sure whether your award was taxed or not.
OIA cannot help you determine if you've received taxable income or not.
If you received taxable income in 2017, you should receive documentation from your employer or the university with information about payment provided and any taxes withheld from your payment. Contact your employer or entity that provided the grant for questions about if the money was taxable, how it was taxed, or when to expect any relevant tax forms. More information can be found in Step 3 below.
Before you complete your tax paperwork, you will need the following documents:
- Valid Passport
- Most recent immigration status documents (e.g. I-20 or DS-2019)
All relevant tax documentation from employers**, stipend providers, or other relevant entities who distributed taxable money (e.g. W-2, 1042-S and/or 1099), if you received taxable income.
- If you received any taxable income, you must wait to receive all relevant documents before completing your tax return. You will not able to alter or edit your tax documents after you submit them to the IRS.
- If you received money from the University of Chicago, you can check the taxes.uchicago.edu website for information regarding university issued tax documents.
All US entry and exit dates
- You can look up your travel history on the I-94 website for reference.
Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), if you have one
- If your ITIN application is still pending and you won't receive it before the filing deadline, you can apply for a tax filing extension with the IRS.
- We highly recommend you attend a tax workshop before filing tax documents.
**If you received taxable money in the previous year (e.g. income, salary, taxable scholarships, grants, or awards), you will need to have any/all relevant tax forms before you can file your tax paperwork. These tax forms might come from U.S. employers, stipend/scholarship providers, or schools. The forms, (e.g. W-2, 1042-S, etc) provide information about the amount of money you were paid and what amount was withheld from your payment for tax purposes.
How do I get the necessary forms?
If you received payment from the University of Chicago, visit taxes.uchicago.edu for information about various tax forms. Otherwise, check with your employer or the organization that provided the scholarship for information about when and how you will receive relevant tax forms. Your employer/award granter might mail you paper copies of these forms, so it is important to keep former employers aware of any addresses changes.
NOTE: OIA does not have access to or copies of or access to your tax forms or other Payroll documents.
Once you've determined your tax residency status and have any/all relevant forms, you can start filing your tax paperwork. The specific tax forms you must file depend on your tax residency status and whether or not you received any taxable money. Review the relevant tax residency section below for more information on filing and submitting your tax documents:
If you are a 'resident for tax purposes', review the filing information on the link below:
If you are a 'non-resident for tax purposes', review the filing information on the link below:
- No income in 2017? Learn how to file an 8843
- If you received income in 2017, you can use Sprintax Tax Filing Software for Non-Residents. To support our international population, OIA pays for software licenses that allow most UChicago non-residents in F-1 and J-1 status to file federal taxes through third-party vendor (Sprintax) for free or a reduced cost.
- Determine Residency for Tax Purposes
- Tax Filing: Residents for Tax Purposes
- Tax Filing: Nonresidents for Tax Purposes
- FAQs Nonresidents for Tax Purposes
- 2017 Tax Filing Workshop (For Tax Year 2016)
- 2014 Tax Filing Statement
- Calculating Withholding Taxes