Most international students and scholars need to file a federal tax return.
Nonresident students, teachers, and trainees who are in the United States temporarily on an F visa or a J visa must file a return if they have income that is subject to withholding, even if no tax is withheld.
However, you may need to file Form 8843 whether or not you earned income.
Learn more about Form 8843
You will need Form W-2 and possibly Form 1042-S. Depending on your personal situation, you may also need additional forms such as a 1098, 1099, or W-2G. Most forms are required to be mailed to you by February.
If you were employed in the United States, your employer will send you a W-2 form. This form shows how much money you were paid during the year. The W-2 also shows how much money was withheld from your pay for federal, state, and local taxes.
You may also receive a Form 1042-S in late February. You will receive a 1042-S if you have a scholarship or a grant that is not a part of your employment and is not for tuition or other “qualified” expenses. In some cases, the 1042-S will show other types of income that are exempt from tax withholding due to a tax treaty or other reason.
You may also receive a Form 1098-T. You should keep it with your tax records, but you do not need to send it with your return or mention it on the return. The 1098-T lets you know that you were an IU student. It usually shows how much you paid for tuition and fees.
You should file either a 1040NR or a 1040NR-EZ. You may need to file additional forms based on your individual circumstances.
In general, you can file Form 1040NR-EZ (and Form 8843) if you meet the following criteria:
- You do not claim any dependents.
- You cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return (such as your parents' return).
- Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
- You do not claim any tax credits.
- You are married, but do not claim an exemption for your spouse.
Some exceptions exist, so make sure to review the 1040NR-EZ instructions for detailed criteria.
File Form 1040NR-EZ
If you do not meet all of the criteria for filing a 1040NR–EZ, you must file Form 1040NR (and Form 8843).
File Form 1040NR
The due date for filing taxes is normally April 15 each year. However, the U.S. government changed the deadline to July 15 in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The IRS website provides information on where different tax forms should be sent.
For help with your federal return, contact the nearest IRS office.
Students at IU’s Maurer School of Law also offer free tax assistance through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA walk-in clinics typically begin in January or February.
The IU Office of International Services also makes a third-party, online tax preparation tool available to all international students and scholars who are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. Details on how to access this tool are typically communicated in February or March, as soon as the tool is available for the current tax year.
The Substantial Presence Test is used to determine whether you will be considered a U.S. resident or a nonresident for tax purposes. The test uses a formula that includes the number of days you have been physically present in the United States during the current year and the two previous years.
Form 8843 supports a claim to exclude your days of presence here, so you can be classified as a nonresident for tax purposes.