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Who do I call if I have questions or problems regarding my "visa"?

The Office of International Services (OIS), STU 300, 740-2666, is here to assist you on any issues not directly related to Payroll.

Am I considered a "non-resident alien" or a "resident alien" for tax purposes?

An NRA is a foreign national on a temporary visa who is not making a permanent home in the US. To determine whether you are a "resident" or "non-resident alien", see IRS Publications 515 and 519. For further questions, go to the IRS web site, or call 1-800-829-1040.

Am I limited in how long I may work?

Non-Resident Alien students may work a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. When school is not in session (i.e. winter break, Summer if not enrolled) an NRA student may work any number of hours. Working in excess of 20 hours per week while school is in session is prohibited by the U.S. Department of Justice, and could endanger your visa status.

My visa or work authorization has expired. May I continue to work?

NO. Under no circumstances may you continue to work unless you submit a proof of extension or an application for an extension. An application for an extension of the Employment Authorization Card is not acceptable. Also, if you are changing your visa type, you may not work in the interval between the expiration of the prior visa type and the receipt of INS approval for the new visa type. You should initiate your paperwork through OIS well in advance of (preferably 3 months prior to) the expiration date of the current visa.

Bring your new document to your Home Department Coordinator as soon as you receive it to ensure your pay is not interrupted.

The following documents require re-verification upon expiration:

  • I-20 (F-1 visa)
  • IAP-66 (J-1 visa)
  • I-797 (H-1B visa; O-1 visa)
  • I-94 Card showing TN (Trade-Nafta), Canada or Mexico only
  • INS stamp "In process for I-551"
  • I-766, I-688, I-688A, or I-688 Cards (usually held by those with asylum paroled into the US, in process for residency, F-1 practical training, and J-2 visa holders)
  • "Conditional" Resident Alien Cards (valid only for 2 years from issue)

Is withholding required with respect to scholarship or fellowship payments made to NRAs?

Yes. Withholding may be required on scholarship/fellowship payments made to non-resident aliens, unless the payment qualifies as a non-taxable scholarship or fellowship or is excludable under a tax treaty. Form W-8BEN must be filed to claim NRA tax status for scholarship or fellowship.

Are NRAs automatically exempt from FICA and Disability taxes?

No. Your visa type determines what taxes you must pay:

F-1Exempt for the first 5 years from date of entry; thereafter may be exempt based on student enrollment.Exemption based on enrollment status.
J-1 StudentsExempt for the first 5 years from date of entry; thereafter may be exempt based on student enrollment.Exemption based on enrollment status.
J-1 Scholars, ResearchersExempt for either the first 2 calendar years in the US, or 2 out of the first 6 calendar years in the US regardless of visa statusMust pay Disability.
H-1B, O-1Must pay FICA.Must pay Disability.
J-2, H-2Must pay FICA.Must pay Disability.

What is an NRA W-4 Form and how do I fill it out?

You must file an NRA W-4 form to declare your Federal tax withholding status. When completing the NRA W-4, you:

  • May not claim "Married"
  • May not claim "Exempt"
  • May not claim more than "01" allowance (unless you are a resident of Canada, Japan, Mexico, or Republic of Korea, in which case you may claim any number of allowances.)

If you are exempt due to a tax treaty, you must also submit Form 8233, and Revenue Procedure Letter in most cases, to allow Payroll Services to report you as "exempt" from Federal Income Tax.

What is a tax treaty, and how does it apply with respect to wages paid to NRAs?

A tax treaty is an agreement entered into between governments under which each country agrees to limit or modify the application of its domestic tax laws in an attempt to avoid double taxation of income - that is, having the same income taxed by both countries. Tax treaties vary, but they generally limit or exempt U.S. taxation of compensation made to residents of the foreign country. Some tax treaties are limited to an amount of time per year, and/or a limited dollar amount per year. Wages earned beyond either limit are subject to federal income tax. See IRS Publication 901 "US Tax Treaties" at the IRS web site for more information.

What is an 8233 NRA Withholding Exemption Form and when do I have to submit it?

Form 8233 allows you to claim "exempt" from federal withholding on earnings as allowed by certain tax treaties. You have to submit an 8233 form when you are hired/rehired, whenever you change job types or visa types, and each December for the upcoming calendar year if the tax treaty is to be applied. If an 8233 is not filed, the tax treaty will not be applied, and no tax refund will be granted if taxes are withheld.

How do I complete Form 8233?

Print or download Form 8233. You will also find both the official IRS instructions, as well as simplified instructions, on completing the 8233. Be sure all fields are completed appropriately. See your Home Department Coordinator for assistance to determine whether a Revenue Procedure Letter is needed.

What is a Revenue Procedure Letter (RPL)?

A "Revenue Procedure Letter" is a supporting statement to the Form 8233 and is required by the IRS for most, but not all, tax treaties. The RPL is a series of statements dictated by the IRS used in justifying your eligibility for exemption from Federal tax withholding. If the tax treaty of your country of residence requires an RPL, you must sign the RPL and submit it along with Form 8233. If you cannot complete the RPL because the statements on the RPL do not apply, then you cannot claim benefits from the tax treaty provisions.

If your country's tax treaty requires a "Revenue Procedure Letter" (RPL), your Home Department Coordinator will supply you with the appropriate one for your tax country. This letter justifies your eligibility to be exempt from Federal tax withholding. Fill out the RPL and submit it with the Form 8233. If Form 8233 and RPL (if applicable) are not submitted fully completed, Federal income tax will be withheld, and no refund of any Federal taxes will be granted.

What is a Form DE-4 and do I have to fill it out?

Tax Treaties apply to Federal taxes only; you are still required to follow State tax requirements. The DE-4 Form is the tax withholding certificate for State of California Taxes and there are no restrictions to what you may claim on this form. Filing this form is optional. If you don't file a DE-4, the same allowance you claimed on the NRA W-4 form will be applied to State of California taxes.

If I am exempt per a treaty, why is a W-4 also required?

When the tax treaty provisions expire, Payroll Services will begin taxing you per the W-4 on file.

How is a tax treaty applied to Scholarships or Fellowships?

Like wages, some tax treaties also exempt monies paid via scholarships or fellowships. For further details, go to the IRS web site, and see IRS Publications 515, 519, 520, and 901.

With which countries does the U.S. currently have a tax treaty?

See IRS Publication 901. For further questions, go to the IRS web site, or call 1-800-829-1040.

Does USC report my income and scholarships to the IRS and my home country?

Yes. The IRS requires that both taxable and non-taxable payments made to non-resident aliens be reported on either Form 1042-S or Form W-2 which are mailed out to you by January 31st of every year. The only exception is if the payment is foreign source income.

When do I have to submit an NRA Questionnaire?

A Non-Resident Alien Questionnaire is an information form Payroll Services requires to ensure that you are reported and taxed correctly. You have to submit an NRA Questionnaire when you are hired/rehired, whenever you change visa types and whenever you change job types.

What is Form W-8BEN?

Form W-8BEN "Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding" is a form filed by non-resident aliens receiving a fellowship, scholarship, or stipend, to claim tax status.

What is Form W-9 and when can I file it?

Form W-9 is a tax document which declares you to be a "resident alien for tax purposes." Filing a W-9 has two immediate consequences:

  • It negates all tax treaty protections and provisions.
  • It gives you more options in what you want to claim on your W-4 (any marital status, number of allowances, or "exempt").

Generally, you should file a W-9 only after you have been in the U.S. for at least the periods of time noted for the following visa types, and then only if you feel it is appropriate:

F-1, J-1 Student     After 5 years in the U.S.
J-1 ScholarAfter 2 years in the U.S.
H-1After 183 days in the U.S.

The University cannot give advice on whether or not you should file a W-9; however be aware that you are responsible for all potential consequences if you decide to claim residence in the U.S.

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