FICA Tax Exemption

Boston University is not required to withhold FICA taxes from wages paid to a nonresident alien in F-1 or J-1 status. FICA taxes only apply to wages; therefore it does not apply to fellowship payments. Students receiving a fellowship will not have FICA taxes withheld from their paycheck.

F-1 visa holders that are considered nonresident aliens for tax purposes and who have been in the US five or less years are exempt from FICA taxes. After they have been in the US for over five years, they are no longer exempt from FICA taxes.

J-1 visa holders are exempt from FICA taxes for two calendar years, including any prior time spent in the US under a previous F-1 or J-1 visa. After being present in the US for more than two years J-1 visa holders are considered resident aliens for tax purposes.

After submitting all of the required documents to the Payroll Office your status will be reviewed in order to determine if you are considered a nonresident alien or a resident alien. Income tax treaties do not provide exemption from FICA taxes, but the US has entered into international social security “totalization” agreements with other countries. This agreement enables a foreign individual to pay social security taxes in only one country.

For questions about the benefits or agreements under social security, please visit the Social Security Administrations website at

IRS Publication 519 is also provides helpful information and can be found here:

If you have any questions about your residency status for tax purposes or if you feel that you had FICA taxes withheld from your paycheck in error, please contact the Payroll Office at 617-353-2270.