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Rev. date: 1/4/2016


Resident and Nonresident Aliens

Tax Topic 851
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Because residents and nonresident aliens are taxed differently, it is important for you to determine your tax status.


Nonresident Aliens

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You are considered a nonresident alien for any period that you are neither a U.S. citizen nor a resident alien for tax purposes.


Resident Aliens

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You are considered a resident alien if you met one of the following two tests for the calendar year:
  1. The green card test - You are considered to have met the green card test if at any time during the calendar year you were a lawful permanent resident of the United States according to the immigration laws, and this status has not been revoked or administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned.
  2. The substantial presence test - For the purposes of this test, the term United States does not include U.S. possessions and territories or U.S. airspace. The United States includes the following areas:
    • All 50 states and the District of Columbia,
    • The territorial waters of the United States, and
    • The seabed and subsoil of those submarine areas that are adjacent to U.S. territorial waters and over which the United States has exclusive rights under international law to explore and exploit natural resources.
To meet the substantial presence test, you must have been physically present in the United States on at least:
  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the 3 year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before. To satisfy the 183 days requirement, count:
    • All of the days you were present in the current year, and
    • One-third of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
    • One-sixth of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.
Days of Presence in the United States - Do not count the following days of presence in the United States for the substantial presence test:
Exempt Individuals - You are an exempt individual if you fall into any of the following categories:
Even if you meet the substantial presence test, you may still be treated as a nonresident alien if you are present in the United States for fewer than 183 days during the current calendar year, you maintain a tax home in a foreign country during the year, and you have a closer connection to that country than to the United States. You cannot claim a closer connection if you have applied for status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States, or you have an application pending for adjustment of status. Sometimes, a tax treaty between the United States and another country will provide special rules for determining residency for purposes of the treaty. See Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more information about the substantial presence test.
Dual-Status Tax Year - If your status changes during the year from resident alien to nonresident alien or vice versa, you generally have a dual-status tax year. Your tax on the income for the two periods may differ under the provisions of the laws that apply to each period. See Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more information about dual-status aliens.


Forms to File

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If you are a nonresident alien, you must file a Form 1040-NR or Form 1040-NR-EZ if you are engaged in a trade or business in the United States, have any other U.S. source income on which the amount withheld did not fully pay the tax due, or to claim a refund.
Resident aliens must follow the same tax laws as U.S. citizens. If you are a resident alien, you must report your worldwide income from all sources, that is, income from both within and outside the United States. You will file a Form 1040-EZ, Form 1040-A, or Form 1040 depending on your tax situation; see What Is the Simplest Form to Use to File My Taxes?
For any due date that falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the due date is delayed until the next business day.


Additional Information

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For more information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, and U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.