General Summary of U.S. Immigration Terms

By | March 2, 2015

There are many different terms used in an immigration context and a tax context. It is important to understand the immigration terms that are used by the IRS. This is essential when filing taxes as an immigrant in the United States.


IRS Immigration Term Definitions

  • Alien – An individual who is not a U.S. citizen or U.S. national. For Income tax purposes, aliens are classified as Residents or Nonresidents.
  • Bona fide Resident – A residence established in a foreign country or countries for an uninterrupted period which includes an entire year that extends into the current tax year.
  • Dual Status – Aliens who are both Residents and Nonresidents of the U.S. within the same tax year.
  • Exempt Individual – Aliens who, because of the terms of their visa status, are not considered to be “present in the United States.” For purposes of the Substantial Presence Test.
  • Exempt Status – A visa status that provides for a defined period of time in which the days an alien is physically present in the U.S. are not counted for purposes of the Substantial Presence Test.
  • Expatriation Tax – An additional tax that may apply to US citizens who have renounced their citizenship and long-term residents who have ended their US resident status for federal tax purposes. Different rules apply according to the date upon which you expatriated.
  • Green Card – An alien registration card issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) giving an individual the privilege, according to the immigration to the immigration laws, of residing permanently in the United States as an immigrant.
  • Taxpayer Identification Number – A unique number used by individuals and other tax entities to file tax forms with the IRS.
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) – A tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. It is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9. ITINs are for federal tax reporting only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security Numbers (SSNs). An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S. or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. NOTE: ITINs issued after December 31, 2012 will expire after 5 years from the date when it is issued. At the end of the expiration period, you must reapply for a number.
  • Nonresident Alien – An alien who is temporarily residing in the U.S., a resident alien who has abandoned permanent residence in the U.S. or an alien who has never been in the U.S.
  • Resident Alien – Aliens admitted to the U.S. under permanent immigration visas are generally resident aliens and meet the substantial presence test or lawful permanent residency test. (Green Card Test)
  • Substantial Presence Test – A rule applied in determining if an alien is a U.S. Resident for tax purposes. Generally, an individual meets the substantial presence test if the individual was in the United States for at least 31 days during the current calendar year and was present in the United States for at least 183 days during the current year and the two preceding calendar years. (Note: For purposes of the substantial presence test, an individual does not count days of temporary presence in the United States under certain visas.)
  • Social Security Number (SSN) – A nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration to U.S. Citizens and aliens permitted to work in the U.S. Treaty Benefits – Provisions of a tax treaty that allow for various items of tax relief or responsibility not provided for under general tax laws.
  • Nonimmigrant Visas – Allows a nonimmigrant to enter the United States in one of several different categories, which correspond to the reason the nonimmigrant was allowed to enter the United States.
  • Nonimmigrant – An alien who has been granted the right to reside temporarily in the United States. Immigrant – An alien who has been granted the right to reside permanently in the United States and work without restrictions. Also known as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), they are eventually issued a “green card”. Passport – An official government document that certifies one’s identity and citizenship and permits a citizen to travel abroad.
  • U.S. National – An individual who, although not a U.S. citizen, owes his/her allegiance to the United States. U.S. nationals include individuals born in American Samoa or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. U.S. Citizen – An individual born in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or an individual whose parent is a U.S. citizen, or a former alien who has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen.