Residency status for F1 visa international students on OPT/CPT using Substantial Presence Test

When filing for taxes in the US, international students can be considered as either ‘non-residents aliens’ or ‘resident for tax purposes’. Your residency status as a student on F1 or J visa depends on your immigration status and how long you’ve lived in the US.
Note – Individuals who are considered as exempt [visa type F1 or J1] are considered non resident aliens.
Source – https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/substantial-presence-test

Determining Tax Residency Status

Let us look into how we can determine you residency status

The Green Card Test
You are a ‘resident for tax purposes’ if you were a legal permanent resident of the United States any time during the past calendar year.

The Substantial Presence Test
You will be considered a United States resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States (U.S.) on at least:

  • 31 days during the current year, and
  • 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
    • All the days you were present in the current year, and
    • 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
    • 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

Example 1

You were physically present in the U.S. on 120 days in each of the years 2015, 2016, and 2017. To determine if you meet the substantial presence test for 2017, count the full 120 days of presence in 2017, 40 days in 2016 (1/3 of 120), and 20 days in 2015 (1/6 of 120). Since the total for the 3-year period is 180 days, you are not considered a resident under the substantial presence test for 2017.

Example 2

You are considered as a non resident (f1 visa) from 2011-2015. Starting from 01/01/2016, you will start counting your days. If you meet the Substantial Presence Test in 2016, you will be considered a US resident for tax purposes and file a Form 1040 for your tax year of 2016. Most likely in the 6th year i.e. 2016 since you would have only spend 4 months (120 days) while filing taxes you would be considered non resident for tax filing purpose

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