Taxes & Social Security

This section provides information on U.S. federal and state income taxes and getting a Social Security number and card.



The United States has several different sets of tax laws. Federal tax law applies to taxes paid to the United States in Washington, D.C. State tax laws apply to taxes paid to the state in which you live. In some places, there are also local or city taxes. It is important to comply with all federal, state, and local tax laws that apply to you.

The federal tax system is a graduated tax system, which means that the percentage of tax one pays is dependent on the amount of income one earns. If you earn a small income, you pay a smaller percentage in tax, but if you earn a larger salary, you pay a higher percentage. The Michigan State tax is a fixed percentage, that is, all Michigan State residents who pay taxes pay the same percentage.

Residency and Non-Residency for Tax Purposes

U.S. tax law divides people into residents or non-residents for tax purposes, which is not necessarily the same as residency according to immigration law. Residents for tax purposes follow the same rules as U.S. citizens, but there are special rules for non-residents for tax purposes. There are also special rules that apply specifically to F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars who are non-residents for tax purposes.

The U.S. Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Publication 519 explains the rules used to determine tax residency for those who are not U.S. citizens. Non-residents for tax purposes are taxed on U.S. source income. Residents for tax purposes are taxed on world-wide income.

There are special rules used to determine tax residency for F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars. In general, international students in F or J status for five years or less (since 2013 or later) and their dependents, file tax forms as non-residents. Research scholars or faculty in J-1 status for two years or less (since 2016 or later) also file as non-residents. International students who have been in F or J status for more than five years, research scholars and faculty who have been in J-1 status for more than two years are generally considered residents for tax purposes.




Social Security


It is important to have a social security card for several reasons.

  1. First, the number on the card is used for employment; you must have a social security number in order to work in the U.S. Therefore, if you will be working on campus, the card is necessary.
  2. Second, the number is used for any fellowships and/or scholarships you may receive from the university.
  3. Third, the number is used when filling out Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms at the end of the tax period. All F-1 students and all non-resident aliens are required to fill-out an IRS form every year, even if they have no income in the U.S.
    NOTE: The number is also used as an identifier when performing tasks, such as requesting utilities and setting up bank accounts. You must visit your International Center for application information before visiting the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office to apply for a number.

The nearest Social Security Administration Office to campus is located at:

Social Security Administration -Flint
1149 Robert T. Longway
Flint, MI 48502
Phone: (800)-772-1213
Visiting the Social Security Administration

You will need to bring the following documents to apply for a social security number:

  • A completed Application for a Social Security Card form (SS-5)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card (and two copies with legible entry stamps)
  • I-20 form (and two copies with legible entry stamps) (for F-1 visa holders only)
  • Proof of employment eligibility (for F-1 and J-1 visa holders only)

F-1 students may submit one of the following documents as their "proof of employment eligibility":

  • With on-campus employment: Letter from hiring department (also for J-1 students)
  • Curricular Practical Training (C.P.T.): I-20 with C.P.T. endorsement on the third page
  • Optional Practical Training (O.P.T.): U.S.C.I.S. Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D.) card