U.S. Tax Filing Requirements


Individuals who are nonresident aliens for federal tax purposes may be required to file tax forms with the IRS and state tax department.

Federal Tax Filing Requirements

Who must file:

  • 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.
  • Even if you are not engaged in a trade or business in the United States, you must file a return if you have U.S. income and did not have enough tax withheld to cover your overall tax liability, and pay the additional tax when filing.
  • You also must file an income tax return to receive a refund if more taxes were withheld than you are required to pay or want to claim the benefit of any deductions or credits (for example, if you have income from rental property that you choose to treat as income connected to a trade or business).

Nonresidents are required to file Form 1040-NR to report the income received during the calendar year. This is true even if the income is exempt under a tax treaty.

If you received no U.S.-sourced income, Form 8843 is still required if you were present in the U.S. for at least one day during the calendar year and are claiming a student or scholar exemption from the substantial presence test to be treated as a nonresident alien.

If you are a nonresident alien who was not in the U.S. at all during the applicable calendar year and you did not receive any U.S.-sourced income, you do not need to file a form for that year.

Leaving the U.S. to go to another country does not change the requirement to file.



If you and your J-2 spouse are both nonresident aliens for federal tax purposes, your federal income tax return (Form 1040-NR) cannot be filed jointly. Therefore, you must each file your own tax form (Form 1040-NR) and select “married-filing separately” status.

If, at the end of your tax year, you are married and one spouse is a U.S. citizen or a resident alien and the other is a nonresident alien, you can choose to treat the nonresident as a U.S. resident and file a joint return. If you decide to file jointly, you and your spouse are treated for income tax purposes as residents for the entire tax year. You are both taxed on your worldwide income and must file a U.S. citizen/resident income tax return (Form 1040) for the tax year in which you choose to make the election.


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State Tax Filing Requirements

State income tax rules generally follow federal rules, but filing requirements and tax rates vary by individual state. To determine your state filing requirements, visit the state website for any state in which you lived or worked during the calendar year.


The content in this website is provided for informational purposes only. MIT does not offer legal, accounting, or tax advice and services. This information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a professional accounting, tax, or legal advisor. MIT recommends that students consult a tax advisor for individual tax advice.