If you are considered a foreign national (not a U.S. citizen), you can be either a resident alien or a nonresident alien for income tax purposes.

A resident alien, for income tax purposes, will be subject to the same tax withholding rules that apply to U.S citizens, including Social Security and Medicare taxes (also known as FICA taxes), and is required to file an annual tax return Form 1040.

In order to become a resident alien, you must pass one of the two tests, below.

  • A nonresident alien, for income tax purposes, has different rules and regulations that apply to their tax status.
  • Usually, F1 and J1 student visa holders are considered nonresident aliens for any part of the first five calendar years they are present in the United States.
  • J1 nonstudent visa holders (professors, researchers, etc.) are usually considered nonresident aliens for any part of the first two calendar years they are in the U.S. in that visa status.
  • Nonresident aliens must elect “single” status with a maximum of one allowance on their Form W-4.
  • Nonresident aliens will need to complete an annual tax return, Form 1040NR. They may receive a W-2 or a 1042-S form reporting their taxable income and taxes withheld.

How to Determine if You Are a Resident or Nonresident Alien

As a foreign national, you are a resident alien if you pass one of two tests: either the Green Card Test or the Substantial Presence Test. Otherwise, you are a nonresident alien. See IRS Publication 519 (PDF) for additional details.

You can be both a nonresident alien and a resident alien in one tax year, in which case you will be a considered a “dual-status alien” for tax purposes. This usually occurs in the year you arrive or depart from the United States or when you change immigration status.

Working for Ball State

Resident Aliens

You pass the Green Card Test if you have been issued a “green card” (aka Form I-551 Alien Registration Card) by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn more about the citizenship process.


You fail the Green Card Test if any of the below applies:

  • You have not been issued a “green card.”
  • You renounce and abandon your resident alien status in writing to USCIS.
  • Your immigration status is administratively terminated by USCIS.
  • Your immigration status is judicially terminated by the U.S. federal court system.

You pass the Substantial Presence Test if you are physically present in the United States for at least:

  • 31 days during the calendar year
  • and 183 days during the three-year period that includes the current year and two years immediately before that counting:
    • all the days you were present in the current year
    • and 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year
    • and 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year

If you are a foreign national employee, please visit the Office of Payroll and Employee Benefits as soon as you are hired for a position at Ball State.

You will be required to complete the following forms:

You will also need to provide copies of the following documentation:

  • all passports
  • Form I-20
  • Form I-94
  • Social Security card—You will be required to complete tax forms even if you do not have your Social Security number yet. If you have not applied for your Social Security number, please call 765-285-5422 to make an appointment with an immigration advisor in International Programs to assist you with this process.

Tax Treaty Benefits

Payroll and Employee Benefits will determine your eligibility for tax treaty benefits by using the Sprintax along with the information you provide provided by the employee (listed above). Certain countries have treaties that may lessen the amount of withholding due.

If you are eligible for tax treaty benefits, our office will notify you and require you to sign Form 8233 (PDF).