Aliens: Non Resident or Resident- What Is Your Status?

Star Trek came much later to Indian television, growing up, I was always a big fan of the science fiction stuff, every Sunday morning my brother & I would be glued to the telly waiting for the next episode of "Star Trek",not even the tantalizing smell of special Sunday breakfasts would get us to budge from our spots. Many, many re-runs of the Star Wars series and the cult movie, E.T later, when I landed in the United States, I was amused to find out that I was considered an "alien"! 

Of course, that was not meant as a "stranger-landing-from-a-space-ship" kind of an alien, but it was more as a sedate, ubiquitous immigrant alien. So let's get to the mundane type of complicated rules to determine - for income tax purposes- if you are an alien, that is, not an U.S. citizen, there are certain criteria you have to examine. 

Are You A Non-Resident Alien/ Resident Alien Or Both In The Same Year?

You are considered a non-resident alien, unless you meet one of the two tests. If you do then you are considered a resident alien. 

  • The Green Card Test:   
You are a resident for tax purposes if you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States at any time during calendar year. One would generally have this status if they possess a Green Card issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You would continue to be considered a lawful permanent resident unless the Green Card was taken away or it is administratively or judicially considered abandoned. 

  • The Substantial Presence Test: 
You will be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calender year. {More about substantial presence on my post here}
To meet this test, you must be physically present in the U.S. on at least: 

1. 31 days during the calender year and

2. 183 days during the 3 year period that includes the current year and the previous 2 years, counting-

      a. All the days in the current year and

      b. 1/3 of the days you were present in 2013, and

      c. 1/6 of the days you were present in 2012.

  • Dual Status Aliens:

You can be both a resident alien and a nonresident alien in the same year. This usually happens either in the year you arrive in or depart from the US. If this applies to you than you are a 'dual-status" alien. Dual status does not refer to your citizenship, it only refers to your resident status in the U.S. To determine what your income-tax liability will be for a dual-status year, different rules apply for the part of a year you are a resident & the part you are a non-resident.

It is important to remember that there are restrictions for dual-status tax-payers. You cannot use the standard deduction, the head of household tax table, you cannot file jointly, you cannot claim the education credits, the earned income credit, or the credit for the elderly or the disabled.

Please contact an Enrolled Agent if any of the above apply to you.

BIbliography: Publication 519

As always, read my disclaimer here. Please consult a qualified tax professional for your unique tax needs. More of my contact information is on my website,



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