Rivermate | Product owner - Andrew Simon

Global Work Glossary

What defines a non-resident alien?

A nonresident alien in the United States refers to an individual who lacks US citizenship or national status and does not meet the criteria to be considered a tax resident in the US. This category encompasses those who fail to satisfy either the green card test or the Internal Revenue Service's substantial presence test. Typically, nonresident aliens stay temporarily in the US under non-immigrant visas like the J-1 or F-1 visa, including foreign students, academic program participants, and nonresident contractors. They hold a distinct tax status, exempt from FICA contributions towards Medicare and social security, and must obtain authorization before working in the US by completing the I-9 Employee Eligibility Verification form.

Taxation of Nonresident Aliens

Taxation represents a major area of complexity regarding nonresident alien status. According to IRS regulations, nonresident aliens are subject to distinct tax rules compared to residents. They face taxation on US income either at resident rates or flat rates based on the nature of their activities. For instance, nonresident independent contractors incur a flat 30% rate on US income. However, access to tax deductions and credits is limited, barring certain benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Nonresident aliens married to resident aliens can file taxes jointly, with the option for the spouse to elect resident alien status. Obligations to file taxes arise if engaged in US trade or business in the preceding year or if having untaxed US income. They may also claim tax refunds or deductions by filing an income tax return, although they typically avoid social security and Medicare taxes.

Hiring Nonresident Aliens

Employers in the US must navigate immigration laws and regulations diligently when hiring nonresident aliens. Compliance entails verifying work eligibility and adhering to visa requirements, along with tax withholding and reporting obligations. Essential documentation includes Form I-9 for work authorization, a Certificate of Naturalization, an unexpired Temporary Resident Card, a social security number (SSN), and valid identification. Ensuring compliance with tax treaties and avoiding permanent establishment status are critical considerations, especially for global remote hiring. Despite challenges, hiring nonresident aliens offers access to a diverse talent pool and unique skill sets, enhancing organizational capabilities.

Next Steps for Hiring Nonresident Aliens

Assess the individual's work authorization status and ensure compliance with visa requirements. Understand tax obligations and withholding requirements, considering applicable tax treaties. Prepare to sponsor the nonresident alien's visa if necessary, understanding associated responsibilities. Provide support and resources to facilitate cultural adjustment for the employee. Stay updated on immigration laws and regulations, maintaining compliance with documentation and verification processes.

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