Non-Resident Alien Fact Sheet

The following information is being provided to you during the Orientation process to ensure proper taxation of wages and benefits you receive while a student or employee at Boston University. It is imperative that you review the following information to determine which apply to you and to maximize any preferential tax treatment while you are an international student/employee attending Boston University. All international students and employees should complete the documentation required within 30 days of Orientation. Incomplete or missing documentation could result in inaccurate (usual higher than required) tax withholdings from your paycheck. Should you require assistance with any of the documentation, please contact the Payroll Office at 617-353-2270 or directly. The Payroll Office is located on the 1st floor at 25 Buick Street.

I. Non-Resident Alien Tax Exemption and Tax Treaty Information

The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets regulations with respect to tax withholding and reporting for payments to persons who are neither citizens nor resident aliens of the U.S. A foreign person who is working and earning income from U.S. sources may be subject to certain tax withholding(s):

  • Federal
  • State
  • FICA (Social Security and Medicare)

As an international employee, you may be exempt from one or more of these tax obligations depending on your current:

  • Immigration status
  • Type of work/activity
  • U.S immigration history
  • Tax treaty eligibility, (based on your most recent country of residence)

In order to determine whether you are tax exempt, and to ensure that you are not taxed at a higher or improper tax rate, the following documentation is required within the first 30 days of employment and immediately after any extension or changes to employment or immigration status:

  • Foreign National Information Form
  • Clear copy of your passport identification page(s)
  • Clear copy of your U.S. visa
  • Copy of I-94 Arrival Form: you can access and print your electronic Form I-94 at
  • Copy of your U.S. entry stamp
  • Copy of your immigration documentation: Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or Form I-797
  • Copy of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) where applicable: F-1 Optional Practical Training, J-2 work authorization, work authorization based on pending legal permanent residence application, etc.)

Because Payroll may have additional questions, please bring the required documentation to the Payroll Office at 25 Buick Street. Payroll Office is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5pm. Failure to provide this information could result in inaccurate (usually higher than required) withholdings and reduced net pay.

II. W-4 Form Instructions

  1. Boxes 1, 2, and 4: Complete per Form W-4 instructions
    • Box 1: First Name and Middle initial, Last Name, and Home Address
    • Box 2: Social Security Number – SSN
    • Box 4: Only Check this box if your last name does not match the name on your
      social security card.
  2. Box 3: Claim “single”, regardless of actual marital status
  3. Line 5: Claim only “one” allowance [Note: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not allow
    Non-Resident Aliens to claim any more than one allowance]
  4. Line 6: Write “NRA” on the dotted line (if you would like you can request to have an additional amount withheld from your pay)
  5. Line 7: Leave this box blank; a nonresident alien cannot claim an exemption on this form. If there is a treaty between your country of citizenship and the US then please apply to the payroll office for a tax treaty exemption (see Part IV below).
  6. Sign and date the form.

To view the IRS instructions on how to fill out the W-4, visit

If you have any questions about your classification as a nonresident alien, please contact the Payroll Office at (617) 353- 2270.

III. Exemption from Social Security and Medicare Tax (FICA)

If you are an F-1 visa holder, are considered a nonresident alien for tax purposes and have been in the US five or less years, you may be exempt from FICA taxes. After you have been in the US for five years, you will no longer be exempt from FICA taxes under NRA rules.

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.

FICA taxes only apply to wages; these taxes do not apply to fellowship payments. Full time students, whether regular employees or fellowship recipients, as well as on- degree students and Post-Doctoral Students receiving a fellowship will not have FICA taxes withheld from their paycheck.

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 certain 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 also provides helpful information and can be found here

IV. Tax Treaty Continuation of Benefits Requirements

For Nonresident Aliens Currently Claiming Tax Treaty Benefits:
You must complete updated tax forms for each calendar year if you are claiming a tax treaty exemption on wages and/or scholarships provided by Boston University. In December of every year, you will receive a letter in the mail from the Payroll Office containing your tax forms. The following forms may be included.

  • Form 8233, Exemption from Withholding on Compensation for Independent Personal Services of a Nonresident Alien Individual, is only valid for the tax year in which it was filed. As an example, 8233 Forms filed in 2013 expire on December 31, 2013. If you receive a Form 8233 in the mail, please sign it and send it back to the Payroll Office at 25 Buick Street Boston, MA 02215.
  • Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification, is used to claim tax treaty benefits by foreign nationals considered Resident Aliens for tax purposes. When this form is used to claim treaty benefits, the form must be signed every calendar year. If you receive a Form W-9 in the mail, please sign it and send it back to the Payroll Office at 25 Buick Street Boston, MA 02215.
  • Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Withholding, is valid for three calendar years and must be signed every three calendar years for as long as you are receiving a fellowship. As an example, Forms W-8BEN signed in calendar year 2012 will expire December 31, 2014. If you receive a form W-8BEN in the mail, please sign it and send it back to the Payroll Office at 25 Buick Street, Boston, MA 02215.

All documents must be signed and returned to the Payroll Office by January 1 of the calendar year in order to continue receiving reduced tax benefits. If the signed documents are not received by January 1st, your tax treaty benefits will stop.

For more information, contact the Payroll Office at 617-353-2270.

1042-S/W-2 Information

Following the end of each calendar year, every person who earns income in the US must file a personal income tax return reporting on wages earned in that calendar year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To assist you in completing your personal income tax return, the University will mail informational tax forms to you; the University is required to provide these forms to you and to the IRS. Based on your individual earnings, taxes paid and tax treaty eligibility you may receive a Form W-2, 1042-S or both from the University.

The W-2 Form reports all taxable wages received from Boston University during the calendar year and the taxes withheld from those wages. If you are going to receive a W-2, it will be mailed to you by January 31st of each year.

The 1042-S is a year-end tax document given to Non-Resident Aliens who received wages or scholarships in any of the following ways:

  • Wages in which there was no tax withheld due to the claiming of a tax treaty
  • Non-Qualified Scholarship /Stipend recipients
  • International Students who received scholarships in excess of tuition and required fees which
    were credited directly to their student account. The IRS regulations state that these amounts must be reported on the 1042-S Form and taxed at the rate of 14%. To meet these IRS requirements Boston University pays the tax due on behalf of students and forwards the information to student accounting. Student accounting will add this amount due to the students account to be collected from the student. Each of these students will receive a 1042-S reporting the amount of excess scholarship or taxable portion received and the taxes owed on that amount.

Some Nonresident Aliens will only receive a 1042-S and others will receive both a 1042-S and a W-2, in this case your treaty exempt wages will be reported on the 1042-S Form and your taxable non-treaty exempt wages will be reported on your W-2 Form. 1042s Forms will be mailed no later than March 15th.

Important – Please make sure that you notify the Payroll Office before January 1st of any address changes in order to ensure you receive your appropriate tax documents.

Please do not file your personal income tax return until you have received all of the tax documents that pertain to you. If you are unsure if you will be receiving a tax document, contact the Payroll Office at 617- 353-2270.

If you feel that there is an error on your W-2 and/or 1042-S, please contact the Payroll Office as soon as possible to make the necessary adjustments.
Please email to request duplicate copies of your W-2 or 1042-S Forms.

For additional information please refer to the IRS Publications 515 and 970.

Please visit the ISSO Tax Bulletin to read more about your tax filing obligations as well as to find resources available to help you file your tax form.


IRS Publication 519:

Social Security Administration website:

IRS Instructions 1392 on how to fill out the W-4:

IRS Publications 901:

IRS Publication 515:

Should you require assistance with any of the documentation, please contact the Payroll Office at 617- 353-2270 or directly. The Payroll Office is located on the 1st floor at 25 Buick Street.