U.S. Tax Residency Status:
Resident Alien or Nonresident Alien
For federal income tax purposes, international students and scholars are categorized into resident aliens and nonresident aliens. Resident aliens for tax purposes follow the same rules as U.S. citizens but there are special rules for nonresident aliens for tax purposes. There are also special rules applied specifically to F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars who are Nonresident Aliens for tax purposes. Please note that tax residency is NOT necessarily the same as residency according to immigration law.
The Substantial Presence Test determines a person's U.S. tax residency status. It is a complicated test. In general, as an international student, if you have been physically present in the U.S. for fewer than 5 calendar years as a student (i.e., you entered the U.S. on or after 1/1/2015) you are probably a nonresident alien for tax purposes. If you were present in the U.S. for 5 calendar years or more in 2019 (i.e., you entered the U.S. on or before 12/31/2014), you are probably a resident alien for tax purposes. You can use GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP) to help determine whether you are a Resident Alien or Nonresident Alien for tax purposes.
If you are a nonresident alien for tax purposes, you are not eligible to file your tax return electronically; you should use GTP to complete your federal tax forms. We do not recommend you using commercially purchased tax return software because it will file your tax return incorrectly.
If you are determined a resident alien, you may use commercially purchased tax return software to file your state and federal income tax. You may also contact the Office for Student Money Management, or visit the IRS website to find free tax return preparation by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Find a VITA Site Near You.
To learn more about tax residence, you may visit the website of U.S. Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Publication 519 U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.