Students in F-1 or J-1 status are exempt from Social Security (FICA) and Medicare tax, which is different than federal and state income tax, during their first five years in the United States in F-1 or J-1 status. The employment for which Social Security and Medicare tax was withheld must be permitted under the terms of the status (e.g. on campus employment or authorized off campus employment including practical training). After five years, FICA and Medicare tax must be withheld, unless the employment involves services performed by the student for the school he/she regularly attends or services performed for a state or local government (unless an agreement with the federal government is involved).
First ask your employer to refund the money to you. This is the easiest procedure, since the employer is also entitled to receive money back if the social security tax was incorrectly withheld. Your employer may ask to see proof that you are eligible for a refund. The rules are explained in IRS Publication 519: US Tax Guide for Aliens. To access a copy, go to:
http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p519.pdf The most recent version of the publication will appear at this link. You need print only pages 1, 52 and 53
If the employer can't/won't refund the social security tax, you will need to complete forms 843 and 8316. To obtain fillable versions of forms 843 and 8316 (for Social Security refunds) go to:
The instructions for form 843 may be viewed at:
Complete all items on form 843. Leave "Employer Identification Number" blank.For question 1, "Period", use the start and end dates of the appropriate tax year. For example, January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012. For question 2, enter the amount of incorrectly withheld medicare and/or social security tax to be refunded. For item 3, check “employment” box. Leave items 4, 5a and 5b blank. For item 6, check “other” and write in “1040NR EZ” or “1040NR”as appropriate.For item 7 write, “I am a non-resident and citizen of ( country ) who has F-1/J-1 (specify ) non-immigrant status. Section 3121(b)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code and the regulations thereunder state that a non-resident alien student on an F-1 or J-1 visa is not liable for paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on wages for as long as s/he is a non-resident alien under the residency rules stated in Section 7701(b), a foreign student on an F-1 or J-1 visa becomes a resident alien after five (5) calendar years in the United States. I state that for calendar year 2012 I was a non-resident alien student and not liable for the Social Security and Medicare tax. I hereby ask for a refund of Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from my wages. I have asked my employer for a refund of these taxes and have been refused.”
Form W-2 showing tax withheld in boxes 4 and 6
Copy of I-94 card (both sides)
Copy of I-20 or DS-2019 (all pages)
Copy of US F-1 or J-1 visa stamp (or Dept. of Homeland Security-issued Change of Status Approval Notice)
If on Optional Practical Training or Academic Training, include a copy of your EAD card or academic training authorization letter.
If J-1, a copy of the letter from the J-1 sponsor that authorized the employment (if other than academic training)
You must also complete form 8316. Check “yes” on item A if your employment was authorized. (on campus, off campus based on economic necessity, practical training). Answer all the questions on the form.
Keep a copy of everything for your files. It can take up to six months to obtain a refund from the IRS. During that time, the IRS may write and ask you for additional information. You should respond to any requests for such information. If you move before a refund is issued, you should file a form 8822, Change of Address Request.
Mail form 843, form 8316 and attachments to:
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, Texas 73301-0215
Last Updated: 1/28/13