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Nonresident Alien


A Nonresident Alien is a foreign individual who does not pass or meet the criteria for a substantial presence test, a set of guidelines utilized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States for tax purposes. These individuals typically don’t reside permanently in the U.S and are subject to different tax laws compared to residents. They usually have to pay tax only on income generated from U.S sources.


The phonetics for the term “Nonresident Alien” is: ˌnɑn-ˌre-zɪ-dənt ˈeɪ-li-ən

Key Takeaways


  1. Nonresident Aliens are individuals who are not U.S. citizens and who do not pass the green card or substantial presence tests, hence they spend less time in the U.S.
  2. Nonresident Aliens are typically taxed only on their income from U.S. sources, not on their worldwide income, unlike U.S. citizens and resident aliens.
  3. Nonresident Alien status affects potential benefits and obligations under U.S. tax law, and it’s always recommended to consult with a tax professional to manage and understand such implications.



The finance term “Nonresident Alien” is significant primarily in relation to taxation and international business activities. Nonresident aliens are individuals who are not citizens of a particular country, and do not pass the substantial presence test for tax purposes in that country, typically in the United States. They are subject to specific tax implications, paying taxes only on income that originates from that country. The categorization of individuals as nonresident aliens often impacts the withholding taxes imposed on their U.S. sourced income. Thus, thorough comprehension of the term is essential for international finance, payroll calculations, and tax compliance.


The term “Nonresident Alien” in finance and business refers to an individual who is not a resident of the U.S. and does not pass the substantial presence test. These individuals are subject to U.S. taxes only on income that is derived from U.S. sources or related to U.S. business activities. The purpose is to differentiate tax treatment based on residency status. It distinguishes those who are temporary visitors, having no intents to reside permanently, in respect to their tax obligations towards the U.S. government.Nonresident aliens play an integral role in the U.S. economy. They include tourists, international students, foreign workers on temporary assignments, or executives. Although they may earn income, spend money, or hold property in the U.S., they are not subject to the same tax implications as U.S residents or citizens. This leads to different tax practices, such as withholding tax or excise tax, which are required to be applied on certain types of incomes these nonresidents may earn. Thus, the purpose of the term is largely to differentiate tax compliance procedures for those residing or doing business in the U.S. temporarily or with limited permissions.


1. International Students Studying in the US: Nonresident aliens can be international students who are studying in the United States. These individuals are not U.S. citizens and don’t have a green card, but they live in the U.S. for a certain period of time for their studies. They must pay taxes on any income earned in the U.S., which includes wages from a job, interest from a bank account, or a scholarship, but they are not subject to paying tax on most types of income from abroad.2. Foreign Investors in U.S. Businesses: Another example of nonresident aliens would be foreign investors who inject capital into U.S. businesses or real estate. These individuals do not live in the U.S., but may earn income through their investments or rental income. The IRS requires nonresident aliens to pay taxes on any income that is classified as “effectively connected income” but they typically do not pay U.S. tax on capital gains.3. International Contractors: Assume a software outsourcing company from India signs a contract with a U.S. company to optimize their IT infrastructure. The Indian company does not have a physical presence in the U.S., and hence, is considered a nonresident alien for tax purposes. Under most conditions, this income wouldn’t be classified as effectively connected income and as such, wouldn’t be subject to U.S. taxation. However, depending on the tax treaty between India and the U.S., some tax might still be owed on the income.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Nonresident Alien?

A Nonresident Alien is a foreign individual who does not pass or meet the criteria for a substantial presence test. They may work, live, or invest in a foreign country but are not considered permanent residents.

What is the ‘substantial presence’ test for Nonresident Aliens?

The substantial presence test is a criterion set by the IRS to determine a person’s tax residency status. It takes into account the number of days over a specific period that an individual is physically present in the United States.

How are taxes applied to Nonresident Aliens?

Nonresident Aliens are taxed only on their income from sources within the United States. They do not have to pay taxes on their worldwide income, as opposed to U.S. citizens and resident aliens.

Can a Nonresident Alien own a business in the US?

Yes, Nonresident Aliens can own a business in the U.S. However, the tax implications may differ compared to those for residents and citizens.

What is the process for a Nonresident Alien to report income from US sources?

A Nonresident Alien reports income from U.S. sources by filing Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ with the IRS. They may need to pay estimated taxes throughout the year.

Can Nonresident Aliens claim tax deductions and credits?

It varies. Nonresident Aliens are generally not allowed the standard deduction, but they may be eligible for certain itemized deductions and credits related to income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business.

What forms does a Nonresident Alien need to be familiar with?

Besides Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ for income reporting, Nonresident Aliens may also encounter Form 8840 (to claim closer connection to a foreign country), and Form 8843 (to exclude days of presence in the U.S).

How does an international student’s status relate to being a Nonresident Alien?

International students in the U.S. typically start as Nonresident Aliens for tax purposes. However, if they meet the substantial presence test, they may be treated as resident aliens for tax purposes.

Is it possible for a Nonresident Alien status to change?

Yes, if a Nonresident Alien meets the criteria for the substantial presence test, their tax status can change from a Nonresident Alien to a Resident Alien.

Can a Nonresident Alien invest in US stocks?

Yes, a Nonresident Alien can invest in U.S. stocks. However, they should consider potential tax implications, such as possible withholding tax on dividends.

Related Finance Terms

  • Foreign Tax Credits
  • IRS Form 1040NR
  • Withholding of Tax
  • Nonresident Alien Tax Compliance
  • Double Taxation Treaty

Sources for More Information

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