Immigration & Taxes:

FAQs for Aliens and Citizens Living Abroad

Q.As a US citizen working abroad, are my foreign earnings taxable?

  1. If you are a US citizen or resident alien working abroad, you may qualify to exclude part or all of your foreign earnings. See IRS Publication 54, Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.

Q.Where can I find local tax assistance when I live in a foreign country?

  1. The IRS has fulltime permanent staff in 10 US Embassies that can provide tax forms and publications, answer questions and help with problems. But then again, if you are reading this, you obviously have access to the Internet and therefore have a vast amount of resources right at your fingertips.

Q. Even though I am not subject to the withholding of Medicare and Social Security because my Visa states I am a temporary non-resident alien, my employer still withheld the taxes from my pay. How do I go about getting a refund for the taxes withheld?

  1. The first to be taken when taxes are withheld in error is to contact your employer who withheld the taxes and request to be reimbursed. If that does not work out, you can file a claim for refund with the IRS using Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement.
    The following documentation should be included with the form:
  • a copy of the Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to prove the amount of social security tax withheld
  • a copy of INS Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • a copy of INS Form I-538, Application of Nonimmigrant Student (F1) for Extension to Stay, School Transfer or Permission to Accept or Continue Employment
  • a statement signed by the student stating that he has been unable to get a refund from his employer for taxes withheld in error

Q. My wife is a nonresident alien. How can I get a non-working SSN for her?

  1. Since 1997, each foreign person who does not have and cannot obtain a Social Security Number must use an IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) on any U.S. tax return or refund claim filed.
    Provide original or certified copies of identity documents. Original documents will be returned. If you have an INS document showing you are allowed to work in the U.S., you are eligible for an SSN and should not file Form W-7.

    Mail the completed Form W-7 and all information requested to the following address:

    Internal Revenue Service
    Philadelphia Service Center
    W-7 Unit
    P.O. Box 447
    Bensalem, PA 19020 USA

    For additional information about ITINs, see IRS Publication 1915, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

Q. How much money can I bring in to the U.S.?

  1. There is no limit on the total amount of money that you can bring in or take out of the United States. However, if you transport more than $10,000 in U.S. or foreign coin in current circulation, currency, travelers' checks, money orders or investment securities in bearer form, you must file Form 4790, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments with U.S. Customs (Currency & Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, 31 U.S.C. 1101, et seq.). Failure to comply can result in civil, criminal and/or forfeiture penalties.