All Things Tax

All Things Tax

Like the title says, from the filing process and tax questions to tax policy and reform, you can search and share All Things Tax here. This is the place to find answers to all your general questions that don't fall under the other categories. And just a reminder: questions about software or online filing should be posted in DIY Products.

Valued Pioneer
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎05-08-2017
Accepted Solution

Filing tax return for a non-resident alien

I have been in the states since 2009 on J1 visa. For the first 4 years I did not pay any taxes as I was on a scholarship from my home country. Then, I started to receive money from the US and pay taxes. I was always considered as a resident alien for tax purposes.


This year, to my surprise, I was considered as a non-resident alien. I was told that people on J1 visa are subject to the 6 year look back rule. I was told that I stayed long enough to be reconsidered as a non-resident. I am not sure how is that, but that is how it is for me now.


If it matters, my wife is non-US citizen on J2 and I assume she is considered as a non-resident alien too. In fact, we never checked her status since she does not work. My kids are all US citizens.


My main concern now is when the time comes to file my tax return. I have few concerns here:


1- Will I be able to claim 4 allowances for myself, wife, and the 2 kids?

2- Will I be able to file my tax return as married filing jointly, which is what I used to do during the past years?

3- Will I receive tax exemptions for 4 persons which are like 16,000 and consequently be taxed for my gross income minus 16,000?

4- Will I get Child Credit since my kids are still young?

5- I am not expecting to make much this year as I was out of the country and started work in March 2017. So, will I get income credit which happened before when I did not make this much? If it matters, I am expecting to make like 26,000 until the end of the year.


Alternatively, if my wife turns out to be a resident alien which is possible since she came to the US one year after me, would it be possible then to that she files as the primary person and add me to her filing?


If it matters, I am not sure about the status of my wife. Like I said, we never checked it since she only worked and filed tax return once. 


If it matters, we all have SSN; I have been filing tax return jointly since 2013; my wife has filed as the primary person once in 2013.


Generally, I would appreciate any recommendation/suggestion/advice that would help me get the most of my tax return.


Thanks a lot for reading and looking forward to hearing from you.





Trusted Council Member
Posts: 6,191
Registered: ‎02-23-2016

Re: Filing tax return for a non-resident alien

HI Xefo1000,


Welcome to the H&R Block community.


Since you are in the country legally you are actually a resident alien for tax purposes if you lived in the United States for more than 183 days out of the year.  Therefore, provided that you live in the USA for more than that 183 days during 2017, you can treat your wife as a resident alien and file jointly (2017 will be 7 years for your wife so she will likely be a non-resident alien if she does not meet the 183 day rule or you do not treat her as a resident alien and file jointly).  You can also claim your kids as your dependents if they meet the dependent child requirements (and I'm sure they do if they're here living with you).  You'll be able to claim an exemption for each of them and potentially some child tax credit, however you must by a U.S. citizen (have a social security number) to claim the earned income credit so you won't be able to get that (your kids have SSNs but if you're on a VISA then you would have an ITIN number.  If I'm wrong and you do have a social security number though then you can potentially claim the earned income credit as well.


My suggestion for you would be to meet with a tax professional in your area when you get ready to complete your tax return.  That way you can put everything on the table and they will be able to make all of the necessary determinations and prepare an accurate tax return for you with the best result that you're able to get.


If you have any other questions I'll be glad to help.



Senior Tax Advisor (Tampa, FL)

Valued Pioneer
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎05-08-2017

Re: Filing tax return for a non-resident alien

Hi Louis,


Thank you so much for your swift and detailed reply which I highly appreciate indeed.


I am still confused about one point:


If I am staying legally in the states for more than 183 in 2017, will I have the right to file as a resident alien regardless of the fact that my current employer is treating me as a non-resident alien? In other words, if I stay over 183 days in 2017, which should be the case, do I have the right to file as a resident alien regardless of what they called 6-year-look-back rule? Frankly, I do not understand this rule and never heard of it until my new employment came in this year.


If it matters:

1- All members of my family, US citizens or not, have SSN

2- For the first four years, I was on a scholarship from my home country and never had to file taxes. The first time I filed tax return was in 2014 based on 2013 income, and I was treated then and until 2016 as resident alien.

3- My very fist visit to the states was in 2008 as a J1 visiting scholar for 3 months. Then from December 2008 to September 2016 as J1 student doctorate, and finally as J1 short-term scholar in 2017.


I totally understand and I do have in mind that at the time filing is due I will need to talk to a specialist. Still, I am asking now to know what I am up to. Tax return is one of the income sources we as family rely on, and it was one of the factors I considered when I took the job I am in now.


Repeatedly, thanks a lot and looking forward to hearing from you again.