U.S. Tax

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Every international student and scholar (F and J status) has an obligation to complete a tax form once per year for the first five calendar years that you are in the U.S. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency that collects taxes. As a nonresident F-1 or J-1 student, you are required to file tax forms each year with the IRS, even if you did not work.

U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing–we all get headaches during tax season–and the laws that apply to international students are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. It is your individual responsibility to understand and meet your tax obligations. If you don’t file the correct forms every year, you could be denied future immigration benefits (such as H-1b, legal permanent residency, etc.) or you may be penalized with fines for the taxes you owe.

Please note: advisors in International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) are not able to give tax advice about individual cases as we are not tax professionals.

Generally, tax returns are due every April 15 based on earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline. This year, the deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020.

General tax concepts

Before you begin preparing your tax forms, you will need to collect several documents and review your tax residency status and treaty benefits.

Each January, you will receive several important documents that are required for filing your taxes. Do not throw these documents in the trash, even after you submit your tax forms!

W-2 or 1042-S Forms

If you earned U.S. income, you should receive a W-2 or/and 1042-S from your employer. You will need one of these forms in order to fill out your federal tax form. Make sure that your employer has your current mailing address, and if you do not receive your form by the end of January, contact your employer. If you worked on-campus, you can download your W-2 and/or 1042-S by logging into MyUW.

Form 1098-T

This is a form for Educational Tax Credits. 1098-T statements are only provided to U.S. Citizens and Immigrant Residents. If you have further questions, please contact Student Fiscal Services in Seattle campus.

Residency Status for Tax Purposes

The UW Seattle ISSS webpage is a good place to start for International Students with tax related questions. In particular, it explains the difference between the types of tax categories that pertain to international students: Nonresident Alien for Tax Purposes and Resident Alien for Tax Purposes. Your status is based on how many years you have lived in the U.S. and it is different than your nonimmigrant visa status. You will need to know which category is appropriate for you so that you fill out the correct tax forms. Their FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page is also very helpful if you still have questions.

Tax Treaties

Additionally, several countries have tax treaties with the U.S., which prevent double taxation. Please note that even if you have a tax treaty benefit, you must still submit the required tax forms. It is your responsibility to research and know which tax treaties apply to you.

State Income Taxes

Washington state does not have a state income tax. However, if you worked in a state that has state income tax (ie, on-campus job at a previous college, or a CPT or OPT employer), you will also need to submit a state income tax return. Glacier will give you a link to find your state income tax, but you will need to pay some money for this service.

Which forms do I need to submit?

Nonresident Alien for Tax PUrposed (NRA)

Resident Alien for Tax Purposes (RA)
  • Form 8843
  • Form 8843
If you earned income in the U.S., also submit one of these two forms (you will automatically fill out the correct form if you use Glacier) If you earned income in the U.S., also submit this form:
  • 1040NR-EZ only if you do not meet the qualifications below
  • 1040NR is required if you meet at least one of these qualifications:


  • Your income was $100,000 or more, OR


  • You had dividend, capital gains, or other U.S. income that is not a wage or scholarship, OR


  • You had subsidized insurance from the U.S. health exchange


  • You were married and you can claim an exemption for your spouse (you can claim an exemption for your spouse ONLY if your spouse did not work AND you are from Canada, Mexico, or Korea ore a STUDENT from India)


  • You can claim an exclusion for scholarship and fellowship grants or the student loan interest deduction

GLACIER Tax Prep (access available mid-March)

The University of Washington provides access to the Glacier Tax Preparation (GTP) program free of charge to international students and scholars who are NRA. This program walks you through preparing your federal tax return and ensures you are completing the correct forms for your situation. Glacier is also available to students who are participating in OPT and STEM OPT extensions if they are still classified as NRA.

Please access the software from the ISSS website. You will need to create a special log in other than your UW Net ID.

Before you log in to Glacier, please collect the following documents:

  • I-20

  • Passport

  • Visa

  • I-94 with all travel history

  • Social Security card (if you have one)

  • W-2 or 1042-S form (if you earned income in the U.S.)

  • Sponsorship, fellowship, or scholarship letters (if you have one)

  • Copy of last year’s tax return (if you filed one)

Below is an instruction provided by one of our student staff. This particular student is a non-resident alien for tax purposes and worked on-campus.

Students employed by UW must first set up an account in a software program called Glacier Tax Compliance when they are hired to work for the university. This is a different program than Glacier Tax Prep! Students may use Glacier Tax Prep at no charge, but you must log in through the ISS website.

  • Enter Glacier through UW Seattle’s ISS webpage: iss.washington.edu/student-life/money-matters/tax-information

  • Login/ Create account

  • Fill in passport/citizenship info

  • Fill in your immigration and visit info, list all the previous entries

  • Upload W-2 or 1042-s form you received from payroll office

  • Enter foreign address, and your SSN

  • Fill in academic institution info, based on your I-20

  • Fill in additional info

  • Glacier Tax Prep will automatically generate the documents

  • Download, print and mail the required documents to IRS

After you finish filling out the forms

  • Sign and date all forms

  • Make photocopies of the forms and keep them with the supporting documents in a safe and secure place. Legally, you are required to keep copies of all of your tax documents for 7 years.

  • Mail the tax forms (8843, 1040 form, etc. - not your supporting documents) to the IRS before July 15, 2020.

  • Remember: the IRS will never email or call you about your tax forms. All phone calls and emails from the IRS are fraudulent scams: do not respond!

Filing deadlines

Form 8843 and your federal tax return are due on April 15, 2020 if you had U.S. income in the prior calendar year, or form 8843 is due by June 17, 2020 if you had no U.S. source income in the prior calendar year.

What if I can't access GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP)?

If you are a Nonresident Alien for Tax Purposes, please be aware that software designed for U.S. citizens (for example, TurboTax, H&R Block, etc.) does not include necessary questions to fully understand an international student’s tax situation. If the software does not fully understand your situation, it might give you wrong information and advise you to use the incorrect forms. In addition, software for U.S. citizens/residents will not check for tax treaties with your county of citizenship.

If Glacier determines you are a Resident Alien for Tax Purposes, please click on the link provided by Glacier. It will take you to Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free and select a company. Please note that this is only for students who are told by Glacier that they have been in the U.S. for such a long time that they are a residents for tax purposes and cannot use Glacier.

You can also use some of these free resources for assistance in filing your taxes. Make sure you ask them first if they know how to file tax forms for Resident Aliens for Tax Purposes:

Other helpful resources:

Publication 4011: Foreign Student and Scholar Volunteer Resource Guide: This is a guide for volunteers who are training to help people prepare tax returns. The language is more user-friendly than the language in IRS publications, and it covers the same topics.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

If you are filing a tax return and are not eligible to apply for a Social Security Number, you may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Unlike a Social Security Number, which is required for employment in the U.S., an ITIN is used only for tax purposes and it is necessary only if you are filing a tax return.

Very few international students need an ITIN. Some examples of those who might be eligible for an ITIN include the following:

  • A Nonresident alien required to obtain an ITIN to claim a tax treaty benefit

  • A Nonresident alien filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for an SSN

  • A Nonresident alien filing a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund

  • A Nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return

  • A Resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for an SSN.

Please note that it will take 2-3 months to obtain an ITIN, so you should plan ahead! Please ask the UW Tax Office for help with applying for an ITIN by emailing itin@uw.edu. These are the documents you will need to request an ITIN:

  • Form W-7

    • Copy of your passport

    • Copy of your visa

    • Copy of your I-20

    • Letter of support from UW Tax Office

If you did not earn income from the U.S. and you are only submitting Form 8843, you do not need to apply for an ITIN.