I just arrived to US because of a post-doc position in an IT company, under a J-1 visa (research scholar). I have been told by the company to fill W-4 form in. But, it seems that W-4 form must be filled in differently depending on my current status (resident alien or nonresident alien).

The rules to decide which is my status are here: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p519/ch01.html

Basically, it seems I need to pass the substantial presence test (see previous link) to determine whether I am a resident alien or not (I cannot meet the other criteria: green card test). At this moment, I definitely do not meet the substantial presence test, since I just arrived to US.

I understand, however, that I will need to file my first tax return on April 2014 (since I am going to start working next week, and my fiscal year will end on December 2013). At that moment, I believe I will actually meet the substantial presence test.

So, my question is: should I decide if I am a resident alien or not based on the date that I start working, or based on the date I will file my tax return?

1 Answer 1


At that moment, I will actually meet the substantial presence test.

No, actually, you will not. Days present in J status are excluded from the substantial presence count.

See down the page you linked to, it starts with "Students".

Form 8843. If you exclude days of presence in the United States because you fall into any of the following categories, you must file a fully completed Form 8843.

  • You were unable to leave the United States as planned because of a medical condition or problem.

  • You were temporarily in the United States as a teacher or trainee on a “J” or “Q” visa.

  • You were temporarily in the United States as a student on an “F,” “J,” “M,” or “Q” visa.

  • You were a professional athlete competing in a charitable sports event.

  • I already saw that part, and I thought that only applied to J-1 under the "student" program. In my case, I am under the "research scholar" program. According to j1visa.state.gov/programs, those are different programs. So, I believe the days I expend in US will be counted for the presence test. Of course, I may be wrong, though. Mar 3, 2013 at 20:51
  • @betabandido: littleadv is correct. J-1 people who are not students fall under "teachers and trainees" irs.gov/publications/p519/ch01.html#en_US_publink1000222140 . However, there are limits on how long you can be considered an exempt individual. For students, it's no more than 5 years. For teachers and trainees, it's no more than 2 years in a 7 year period.
    – user102008
    Mar 3, 2013 at 21:37
  • @user102008 It is true that publication 519 only lists students, teachers, and trainees. But in the J-1 visa program list, it is possible to find those three programs (student, teacher and trainee), plus some other programs such as: specialist, professor, research scholar, etc. I do not think that specialists fall into either teacher or trainee programs. So, my guess is that J-1 programs not listed in publication 519 are not affected by the exemption rule. Am I correct there? Mar 3, 2013 at 22:08
  • @littleadv There is a specific intern program in J-1 visa, which seems to be different from teacher or trainee. In my case, I am not an intern, but a research scholar. None of those classes are listed in publication 519. The problem is that pub. 519 does not mention what happens with other J-1 programs. So I am not sure what applies to my case. Mar 3, 2013 at 22:11
  • 1
    @betabandido: Publication 519 says "A teacher or trainee is an individual, other than a student, who is temporarily in the United States under a “J” or “Q” visa and substantially complies with the requirements of that visa." So under that definition, you are under "teachers and trainees"
    – user102008
    Mar 4, 2013 at 6:23

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