The Catholic University of America


All nonimmigrants are required to file some sort of tax form, even if they owe no taxes or earn no income in the U.S. during their stay. Foreign nationals in the United States are required to comply with all laws governing them during their stay in the U.S., including the filing of appropriate tax forms. While the immigration regulations are the laws that first come to mind, the tax regulations can not be ignored.

The IRS holds you accountable for understanding and complying with your federal income tax responsibilities. IRS requirements may feel unfair, or complicated, but failure to comply with the law could result in fines or in denial of immigration benefits.

The Office of International Student and Scholar Services cannot offer tax advice. They are not experts in tax law. They will not assist you in completing your tax forms. The information below is intended to serve as a guide only and is not meant to be considered legal advice for your specific situation. 

Determining Residency Status for Tax Purposes

It is important to understand whether or not you are considered to be a resident or a nonresident alien for tax purposes. Keep in mind this is different from being a resident alien vs. a nonimmigrant under the immigration laws. The following charts are taken from the Internal Revenue Service's 2018 VITA/TCE Publication 4011 Foreign Student and Scholar Text for use in preparing Tax Year 2018 Returns for Nonresident Aliens

Completing tax forms when employment starts

If you work in the United States, your employer is required to report your earnings to the Internal Revenue Service. The employer is also responsible for withholding certain taxes from your pay and forwarding them to the U.S. government on your behalf. At the start of your employment, you are required to complete certain tax forms to help the employer determine how much should be taken out of your paycheck for taxes. It is important to work with the payroll office when completing these forms.

Tax Filing Obligations 

All foreign nationals are required to file some sort of tax form for each year they are present in the U.S. In addition to the federal government, state and local governments may also impose tax obligations. States have the authority to impose their own taxes on income.

Type of Income

   Form to Fill out

No income or bank interest only (this should be filed for you AND your dependents)




 Wages and/or scholarship/fellowship


1040NREZ or 1040NR and 8843



Determine Deadlines for filing:

  • Federal filing deadlines:
    • April 17 for tax returns for anyone who received wages
    • April 17 for tax returns for anyone who had no US source income, whose only income was in the form of scholarships or other income not subject to withholding.
  • Deadlines for filing state tax returns are:
    • April 17 for both Maryland & District of Columbia
    • May 1 for Virginia

Determine what you need to file with the state in which you live



The following publications from the Internal Revenue Service may be very helpful with Federal tax returns:

Online Tax Preparation Programs