The U.S. Tax System

International students and scholars temporarily present in the United States are subject to special rules regarding how you will be taxed on your income and which tax forms to file.

Nonresident Alien v. Resident Alien for Tax Purposes

Your tax status can be different from your immigration status. International students on F or J visas are nonimmigrants for immigration purposes, and most nonimmigrants are also nonresidents for tax purposes. This means you are subject to different criteria than U.S. citizens or permanent residents when paying taxes in the U.S.

If you have been physically present in the U.S. for an extended period of time, you might be considered a resident for tax purposes, even though you are a nonimmigrant for immigration purposes. The University of Arizona uses a software program called GLACIER to administer the Substantial Presence Test to determine if you should be considered a resident for tax purposes, and therefore pay taxes as a resident.

Being considered a resident for tax purposes only affects how you file your taxes and how you will be taxed—it does not affect your immigration status.

Federal vs. State Tax Filing

In the U.S. we distinguish between federal and state taxes for tax filing. If you have lived or worked in more than one state in 2018, you might be required to file income taxes for each state, in addition to your federal income taxes. The GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP) software program will help nonresidents for tax purposes complete forms for federal tax filing. You can find a resource for preparing your state tax return in the Resources for Tax Assistance section below.


The term “income” refers to money received for work or through investments or from other sources, such as dividend income, scholarship or fellowships, prizes or awards. A detailed summary of what is considered U.S. source income for the purpose of tax returns can be found on the IRS website


Internal Revenue Service

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the U.S. government agency responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing tax laws. The IRS will never contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail.