Social Security and Medicare (FICA) Guidelines—Nonresident Aliens

Under Section 3121(b)(19) of the Internal Revenue code, students and scholars temporarily present in the U.S. on F-1, J-1, M-1, and Q-1 visas, are usually exempt from FICA taxes, as long as they are nonresidents for income tax purposes under section 7701(b) of the IRS tax code. This exemption applies to wages paid to them for services performed within the U.S. as long as such services are allowed by INS, and are "performed to carry out the purposes for which such visas were issued to them."

This exemption applies to the following:

  • F-1 and J-1 student visa holders for the first five calendar years.
  • J-1 Scholars (including teachers, professors, researcher, and alien physicians) for the first two calendar years.

This exemption does not apply to the following:

  • Spouse and children on F-2, J-2, M-2, and Q-2 visas
  • Nonresident aliens who have become resident aliens for tax purposes (Internal Revenue Code section 7701(b))
  • Nonresident aliens who have changed to any visa status other than F-1, J-1, M-1, or Q-1 status.

Definition of Calendar Year

For IRS exemption rules, IRS uses the period from January 1 to December 31, not 12 consecutive months. No matter what part of the year the F-1 or J-1 visa holder originally entered the country, it is counted as a full calendar year when determining the exemption for FICA withholding.