Office of International Programs
Social Security and Tax Information
As in most countries, the tax laws in the United States are complex. Tax treaty benefits, Social Security taxes and filing requirements depend on your visa status, the purpose of your visit, the number of days you will be in the United States and the history of prior visits.
Taxation of Exchange Visitors
It is hard to generalize about specific tax situations. Under normal circumstances, visitors in J-1 status do not pay Social Security, or Medicare, taxes until they have been in the U.S. for two calendar years. However, income from a U.S. source is normally subject to federal income tax withholding at a 10-14% rate, or at a 30% rate for one-time payments for independent contractor services. If your country has a Tax Treaty with the United States, then a portion of your income is generally exempt from tax withholding for a certain period of time specified by the treaty.
Please note that J-2 dependents with work authorization are fully subject to Federal, Social Security and Medicare taxes and are not eligible for tax treaty benefits.
Tax Filing Responsibilities & Assistance
If you are in the United States for even one day in J-1/J-2 status, you will have tax filing responsibilities. If you did not have any U.S. source income, you are still required to file Form 8843 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Your J-2 dependents must also file Form 8843. If you have U.S. source income, you may also be required to file a tax return. Although ISSFS cannot assist you with preparing your taxes during normal office hours, volunteer tax assistance is available on Monday and Thursday evenings during tax filing season (February-April).
Social Security Number
A Social Security Number (SSN) is required for payment and taxes in the United States. Instructions on the SSN application procedure are available from ISSFS.
You must wait 10 days from your arrival to the United States and be validated in the SEVIS system in order to apply for an SSN, so please plan accordingly.
Your J-1 status will be validated in the SEVIS system shortly after your attendance at the mandatory J-1 Scholar and Student Orientation.
Please note that if you have an SSN from a past visit to the United States, you will use the same number for your entire lifetime.