Internal Revenue Service United States Department of the Treasury
Level Basic Advanced Military International

Social Security Tax

Social Security and Medicare Tax Liability

Topic Summary

The following foreign student and scholar nonresident aliens are usually exempt from social security and Medicare taxes:

  • Nonimmigrant students, scholars, teachers, researchers, and trainees (including medical interns) who are temporarily present in the U.S. in F-1, J-1, M-1, or Q-1 status
  • Any period in which a foreign student is in "practical training" or other off-campus employment allowed by the USCIS
  • Any student who is enrolled and regularly attending classes at a college or university on pay earned from that school

Similarly, the self-employment income of nonresident aliens is exempt from self-employment tax. The exemption is lost if an alien becomes a resident.

If an employer withholds social security and Medicare taxes from pay that is not subject to taxes, follow these steps:

  1. Contact that employer for reimbursement
  2. If the employer does not refund the withheld taxes, file a refund claim on Form 843 with attachments and mail to Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Ogden, UT 84201-0038

For additional information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.