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FICA Taxes (Social Security & Medicare)


Internationals and F.I.C.A.

Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax is a United States Federal payroll (or employment) tax imposed on both employees and employers to fund Social Security and Medicare —federal programs that provide benefits for retirees, the disabled, and children of deceased workers. Social Security benefits include old-age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI); Medicare provides hospital insurance benefits for the elderly.   Funds withheld for F.I.C.A. are reflected on your paycheck stub and located in boxes 4 and 6 of your W-2.

F-1 and J-1 student visa holders are typically exempt from paying F.I.C.A. taxes for their first 5 years (considered non-residents for tax purposes) in the United States.  J-1 scholars and researchers are typically only exempt for 2 years. The information for the exemptions are found under Internal Revenue Code 3121 (b)(19) and are available to persons in F-1, J-1, M-1 and Q immigration status.  If you have been in the US for 5 or less years and begin to work in any of these immigration statuses, indicate to your employer that you are exempt from this tax.  The information is located in IRS Publication 519, specifically page 52.  To determine residency for tax liability, you would use the Substantial Presence Test utilized by the IRS. (http://www.lehigh.edu/~intnl/documents/2012TaxResidency.pdf)

If your employer has mistakenly withheld F.I.C.A. taxes, you first must work with them directly to request a reimbursement. If they will not assist you, you will need to file a reimbursement after you file your taxes.  Go to the IRS website and complete: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms 843 AND supplemental form 8316 to request the reimbursement.

Please note that J-2s with work authorization are not exempt from FICA taxes.


Office of International Students and Scholars • Lehigh University • 32 Sayre Drive, Coxe Hall, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • 610-758-4859 • Fax: 610-758-5156 • intnl@lehigh.edu
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