How to Get a FICA Tax Refund? Claim Returns for F1 Students

How to Get a FICA Tax Refund? Claim Returns for F1 Students

The word ‘Tax’ is something that horrifies people to a huge extent. As an international student, it is more so tough as you have to readjust yourself to a new place. You have to understand the new laws that you are to abide by.

The term ‘FICA Tax Refund’ confuses quite a lot of people. As said earlier, it is tough to know who is to pay taxes. Especially, if an international student is not earning, it might make him think he has no need to file taxes. Well, this is just one of the confusions that revolve around the ‘FICA Tax claim’.

This article is to clear all doubts about FICA tax and whether an international student is required to pay.

What is FICA tax?

The full form of FICA is Federal Insurance Contributions Act. It is a financial law under the federal government of the United States of America. It keeps a lookout on the paychecks of the employees and issues a corresponding payroll tax. It also takes a cut amount from the employers to take care of Social Security and Medicare programs.

For people who are self-employed or come under the category of freelancers, there is a law that equates to FICA, known as the Self Employed Contributions Act (SECA).

Am I supposed to file for FICA tax if I am on an F1 visa?

For all income tax purposes that come under the US Federal government, international students have the same tax-paying duties similar to that of a non-resident alien. This indicates that the racing for international students would be done only at the income sources that are based in the US.

All the international students who are earning an income in the USA are looked upon similar to as non-residential aliens who live in the USA with regards to taxation. In case you are just a student with no income, it doesn’t mean you do not have to file tax. Rather students too have to file tax at the concerned department.

The taxes that are levied on international students are:

  • Wages and remuneration
  • Pay rates
  • Tips
  • Interest
  • Profits through share market or businesses
  • A few grants/association awards
  • Prizes/grants

The amount of tax that one needs to pay depends upon the conditions that are exclusive to you.

Tax-related residency

Residents, nonresidents, and dual-status aliens are the three basic classifications of residency for tax purposes in the US. For tax reasons, the majority of F-1 visa holders will be regarded as nonresidents.

Significant presence testing

If you meet the requirements of the Substantial Presence Test, you are regarded as a resident for tax purposes. To establish whether someone who is not a US citizen or a US permanent resident should be taxed as a resident or a nonresident alien for a certain year, the IRS applies the substantial presence test. The primary distinction is that US citizens must declare all of their income, whereas nonresident immigrants are only required to report their income that is sourced in the US.

What does a nonresident mean in terms of taxes?

For tax purposes, you will be categorised as a nonresident alien if you fail the significant presence requirement. This indicates that only income earned in the US will be taxed. Additionally, if your nation of residency and the US have a tax treaty in place, you can be partially or entirely excused from paying taxes.

Do students have to pay FICA tax?

International students in their F-1 Visa are exempted from paying FICA tax. There is a special provision for F-1 students in the Internal Revenue Code. This exemption is valid only for 5 years from the time of entry into the United States.

Paying taxes on Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students

International students can participate in the OPT programme, which enables them to work in the US after graduation and earn experience. After each level of education has been completed, students with F-1 visas may apply for a 12-month OPT extension.

You must pay taxes if you receive an income from an OPT. When you begin working, you must also complete a W-4 tax form with your new employer.

Do students who participate in CPT (Curricular Practical Training) have to pay taxes on their earnings?

Yes, students on CPT who have an F-1 visa will not be excluded from paying federal taxes. Since the majority of F-1 students are regarded as nonresident aliens in the US, they must submit a US tax return (form 1040-NR) for any income derived from US sources.

As an international student, how do I get refunds on FICA tax?

You are not required to pay up for FICA tax if you are within 5 years of your F-1 visa. Just in case of withheld taxes by your employer, you can inform them and get back your claimed amount.

In case you are not able to get a full refund from your employer, put up a claim asking for a refund of your money. You can do your filing with ease by going through the procedure that is provided on the IRS website

The procedure to start this process involves filling Form 843 that is specifically made for claiming a refund and as an extension, a request for abatement.


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Along with this form, you also have to attach certain documents for the perusal of the authorities.

These documents are listed as below:

  • A copy of your W-2 Form to authenticate the money that has been withheld as Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • A copy of your passport highlighting your Visa stamp,
  • Form I-94, form showcasing arrival/departure records in the US,
  • Form I-538, Certification from the DSO, provided by your concerned school authority, if needed,
  • Proof statement from your employer regarding the money that has been claimed by them or the amount you authorized for them to claim. In case of the absence of this statement, you may attach your own statement along with the reason for your employer not attaching the same.
  • Form 8316, Form providing information about the request for refund of Social Security tax wrongly withheld on wages that a Nonresident Alien receives on an F, J, or M Type Visa.

The above applicable attachments need to be provided alongside Form 843 while filing for your refund with the IRS office. The office where you file this form must be the same one where your employer files their Form 941 returns.


There might be cases wherein your employer files for FICA tax and thereby withholds a specific amount in the name of Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Have a proper discussion with them and tell them how it is not applicable for you.

You can claim the amount if they haven’t processed it. If it has already been processed, then the above article will help you to claim your FICA tax refund.