Tax Information for Foreign Nationals
All foreign nationals with earned income and nonresidents on F or J visas without income comply with U.S. tax laws. Use these pages to learn about tax requirements:
- Annual tax filing
- Nonresident paycheck withholding
- Tax treaty benefits
- Social Security and Tax Identification numbers
Annual tax filing
Each year, you must file a U.S. tax return for the previous year:
- If you are a nonresident, you must complete your annual federal tax return by April 15 for the previous tax year if you have wages reported on a W-2.
- If you only have a 1042-S, and not a W-2 (for example, if you received only scholarship/fellowship payments or if all of their income is exempt under a tax treaty), you have until June 15 to file your tax return.
Complete rules and tax deadlines can be found on the 1040NR instructions.
Tax forms issued by HR Payroll & Benefits
It is important to understand what tax forms you will receive each year and assure you have them in hand before filing your tax returns. Many students and scholars might receive different tax forms from year-to-year.
- Form W-2 is issued to those who earned employment income from Northwestern and are mailed by January 31 of the following year. This would include any income from assistantship wages, temporary wages, supplemental payments, teaching and research wages. This does not include any income exempt from taxes under a tax treaty or non-employment wages such as scholarship/fellowship (see 1042-S below).
- Form 1095-C is a new form required for all benefits-eligible employees and students as part of Affordable Care Act (ACA) laws. Benefits eligible Northwestern employees receive 1095-C from the University and students receive 1095-B from AETNA.
- Form 1042-S is issued to nonresidents receiving scholarship/fellowship, independent contractor, royalties, prizes and award payments and any payments receiving tax treaty benefits. Payroll mails them by March 15 of the following year for use in preparing annual tax returns. Once a student becomes a tax resident, they are no longer issued a 1042-S for these income types unless they are on a tax treaty. Please see our tax page for more detail on taxation for tax resident scholarships.
State tax forms
You are required to complete a State Tax Return for each state in which you worked in the previous year. If the state you worked in is not on our list, try googling the state name and "state tax return."
Sprintax Tax Prep for nonresident tax filers
Sprintax is an easy-to-use online tool designed exclusively for nonresident international students, scholars, and their dependents to help prepare their U.S. Federal Income Tax forms (Form 1040NR or Form 8843). The Office of International Student & Scholar Services purchases access codes for eligible NU international students and scholars to use Sprintax to complete their required federal tax forms
The OISS will provide eligible international students and scholars a unique access code via email, generally by late February (around the time we mail the Form 1042-S forms). If you believe you are eligible to receive a Sprintax access code for assistance with your federal tax return and you have not received it by early March, please contact the OISS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The staff at the Payroll and the Office of International Student and Scholar Services are not trained tax professionals and are not able to provide one-on-one advising regarding filing tax returns, questions about forms, etc. We can provide general information, and we can direct you toward tax resources.
The OISS Taxes webpage lists various workshops and webinars with tax information for international students and scholars.
Applying for ITIN
Often individuals who are not eligible for a Social Security Numbers, but require a tax ID to file tax returns, must apply for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) when filing their tax returns.
If you use GLACIER Tax Prep to prepare your tax return, it will assist in preparing your ITIN application. You will mail both the ITIN application and your federal tax return (1040NR or 1040NR-EZ) to the ITIN unit listed in your instructions. You will need to attach the following:
- No employment letter (can receive this letter from Office of International Student and Scholar Services or Payroll Office)
- Original or certified copy of unexpired passport. It is not recommended to send your original passport, instead you can request a certified copies from an embassy or consulate (fee often applies) or an IRS Office. You can check for available locations to make an appointment or call 1-844-545-5640. Make sure to check “services provided” link to assure they have ITIN services at the location.
- Copy of visa
- ITIN application and instructions. Please assure to read the instructions carefully and complete all applicable fields.
- When you file your tax returns, keep a signed copy of all returns and schedules.
- Use the 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals form (found on the IRS website) to estimate amount of tax you may owe for federal taxes.
- If you are paid scholarship/fellowship, make sure to pay estimated taxes to Illinois.
- The Office of International Student and Scholar Services has common tax scenarios and other useful information and links on their website.
IRS tax resources
- IRS Foreign Students and Scholars is the main page for foreign national taxation with links to all of their publications.
- IRS Publication 519 US Tax Guide for Aliens has information for nonresidents about U.S. taxes.
- IRS Publication 901 US Tax Treaties lists all US tax treaties with their details.
- IRS Publication 970 explains qualified scholarship/fellowship expenses for use in reporting these monies on their U.S. tax return.