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I understand that a nonresident alien is taxed either using flat rates, or using potentially lowered rates if the US has a tax treaty with her country of residency.

Question: how is the country of residency determined?

Context: The examples here and elsewhere assume that a nonresident alien will be traveling to the US from their country of citizenship, which simplifies things a lot. My case is slightly more complicated: I am an Indian national who presently lives in Singapore and has filed taxes in Singapore for the last three years. I have also filed taxes in India for the last six years. I am about to leave Singapore permanently and head to the US. In the US's eyes, is my country of residency India or Singapore?

Suppose it is Singapore, since that's the last place I have drawn substantial salary and was last a tax resident and a physical resident. In that case, is there a time during my degree when my residency switches to India? I may never visit Singapore again, but I will likely visit India annually while completing a 6-year degree in the US.

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  • Since I've been around heaps of these situations, I can tell you for a fact it will be India. They couldn't care less about, and don't want to know about, Singapore. Note that as of "now" you are not living in Singapore - right? I can't sort of give you "a reference" for this since it's based on seeing it many times and the outcome of what some legal or accounting says, so, wait for references from someone else! {As a curiosity: in cases like this sometimes the person will keep a small flat or the like in Singapore, so you can continue to be resident there rather than India!} – Fattie Oct 16 at 14:07
  • To clarify, I am currently in Singapore, and I'll be heading to the US from Singapore directly. Does this affect your answer at all? Sounds like not... – Mohan Oct 16 at 15:12
  • {Thanks for the added tip! India's tax treaty with the US is actually nicer than Singapore's, so I think I'll leave things be.} – Mohan Oct 16 at 15:13
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Assuming you are living in Singapore for at least a year and you are currently a tax resident of Singapore, I doubt you can use the US-India tax treaty provisions for residents of India who go to the US. For example, Article 21 of the US-India tax treaty, which is for students, applies to a student who is "a resident of one of the Contracting States immediately before visiting the other Contracting State". Similarly, Article 22 for professors, teachers, and research scholars says "who was immediately before that visit a resident of the other Contracting State". So it matters what country you are a tax resident of immediately before going to the US, and I believe that that country is Singapore, not India. This is true even if you will no longer be a tax resident in Singapore when you are present in the US.

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