Student FICA Information

Students who are employed in a student position and are at least half-time undergraduate, graduate or professional students are exempt from FICA tax.

Undergraduate students must be registered for six credit hours or more during the Fall, Spring and Summer Sessions and zero credit hours or more during the Winter Session to be exempt from FICA tax.

Graduate students must be registered for five credit hours or more during the Fall and Spring Sessions, three credit hours or more during the Summer Session and zero credit hours or more during the Winter Session to be exempt from FICA tax.   

However, half-time enrollment standards may vary by college and/or discipline; therefore, you should contact the Registrar's Office to find out if you are enrolled half-time or more.    

Graduate students may be exempt from FICA tax if:      

  • They are registered for 0-2 credit hours or more and if their department completes a Short Hours Form indicating that the student is engaged in research in fulfillment of a degree requirement, writing a dissertation or thesis, or preparing a prospectus. This form must be registered with the University Registrar's Office.
  • They have registered for post-comp status or passed their Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination.  Please contact your department for additional information.

Nonresident aliens who are currently in F-1 or J-1 immigration status are exempt from FICA tax UNTIL they have met the IRS Substantial Presence Test (SPT).  Payroll Services uses the Foreign National Information System (FNIS) to collect and maintain data to determine your nonresident alien vs. resident alien status for tax purposes. Please complete the online form when requested and return it as soon as possible so that Payroll can determine your correct tax withholding.

According to an IRS article on The Social Security and Medicare Tax Liability of Foreign Students, Scholars, Teachers, Researchers, and Trainees:

International students in F-1 and J-1 status who have been in the U.S. less than five calendar years are considered nonresident aliens for tax purposes and are exempt from FICA tax.  International students in F-1 and J-1 status who have been in the U.S. more than five calendar years are considered resident aliens for tax purposes and are liable for FICA tax unless the students qualify for the student FICA exemption requirements mentioned above. Thus, payroll will start withholding FICA tax beginning January 1 of the sixth calendar year in the U.S.

International scholars, teachers, professors, trainees, and researchers in J-1 status who have been in the U.S. less than two calendar years are considered nonresident aliens for tax purposes and are exempt from FICA tax.  International scholars, teachers, professors, trainees, and researchers in J-1 status who have been in the U.S. more than two calendar years are considered resident aliens for tax purposes and are liable for FICA tax. Thus, payroll will start withholding FICA tax beginning January 1 of the third calendar year in the U.S.

If an individual is employed in a professional position and a student position, they will be required to pay FICA tax on their professional position.  Professional positions typically receive a benefits package, which is a prohibiting factor for FICA tax exemption.  However, nonresident aliens who are in F-1 or J-1 immigration status will be exempt from FICA tax until they have met the IRS Substantial Presence Test (SPT).  This exemption is based on immigration status, NOT student status.