How to Get Refund of FICA Taxes for OPT Students

Raghu Personal Finance 79 Comments

fica tax refund opt irs

FICA stands for The Federal Insurance Contributions Act. Do you want to know how to get FICA Tax refund from IRS if you paid those taxes while on F1 Visa, CPT or OPT?

  • FICA tax = 6.2 % for Social Security + 1.45 % Medicare tax.

Students on F1 Visa who are working on OPT are Exempt from FICA Tax for a certain period. If your salary is $50,000 per year, then $3,825 is paid as FICA tax annually as an Employee. Did you know your employer is also paying the same amount to the IRS?

Let’s look at the following question from a F1 Visa holder who wasn’t aware of this exemption and have paid FICA taxes.

I have a question regarding FICA taxes. As an OPT student, I am exempt from FICA taxes, but these taxes are still getting deducted from my salary. I know that I can file for a refund of this money to the IRS. But I was wondering if there is any way to stop these deductions from my salary itself. (So that I don’t worry about filing for a refund). I checked this with my employer. But company people were not sure. And I wanted to check with the IRS, but I could not due to the shutdown. It will be great if you could throw some light on this.

OPT and FICA Taxes

  • As per IRS you don’t have to pay FICA Taxes (Social Security and Medicare) for F1 Visa, student until 5 years in USA.
  • The employer’s payroll processing team should be aware of this
  • If not, no worries, you can educate them and ask them not to deduct FICA taxes from your paycheck.
  • Worst Case: If they continue to deduct the FICA taxes, you can claim it back while filing your taxes in April (or later).
  • You can apply for FICA Tax refund via service provider SprinTax (look under their Services).

Click here to learn about 16 FAQ’s About Filing Income Tax for International Students in USA.

IRS: FICA Taxes and OPT Students

The following is taken from the IRS Website

Nonresident aliens, in general, are also liable for Social Security/Medicare Taxes on wages paid to them for services performed by them in the United States, with certain exceptions based on their nonimmigrant status. The following classes of nonimmigrants and nonresident aliens are exempt from U.S. Social Security and Medicare taxes:

F-visas, J-visas, M-visas, Q-visas. Nonresident Alien students, scholars, professors, teachers, trainees, researchers, physicians, au pairs, summer camp workers, and other aliens temporarily present in the United States in F-1,J-1,M-1, or Q-1/Q-2 nonimmigrant status are exempt on wages paid to them for services performed within the United States as long as such services are allowed by USCIS for these nonimmigrant statuses, and such services are performed to carry out the purposes for which such visas were issued to them.

  • Exempt Employment includes:
    • On-campus student employment up to 20 hours a week (40 hrs during summer vacations).
    • Off-campus student employment allowed by USCIS.
    • Practical Training student employment on or off campus.
    • Employment as professor, teacher or researcher.
    • Employment as a physician, au pair, or summer camp worker.

If You Paid FICA Taxes?

You can ask your employer to read the IRS site about FICA Taxes. If they continue deduct taxes, then you can request refund of FICA Taxes withheld from you paycheck back from IRS.

Following is the procedure to get FICA Taxes Refund (from IRS Site)

FICA Tax Refund from OPT Period

If social security or Medicare taxes were withheld in error from pay that is not subject to these taxes, contact the employer who withheld the taxes for a refund.

If you are unable to get a full refund of the amount from your employer, file a claim for refund with the Internal Revenue Service on Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement (PDF). Attach the following items to Form 843:

  • A copy of your Form W-2 to prove the amount of social security and Medicare taxes withheld,
  • A copy of the page from your passport showing the visa stamp,
  • INS Form I-94,
  • If applicable INS Form I-538, Certification by Designated School Official, and
  • A statement from your employer indicating the amount of the reimbursement your employer provided and the amount of the credit or refund your employer claimed or that you authorized your employer to claim. If you cannot obtain this statement from your employer, you must provide this information on your own statement and explain why you are not attaching a statement from your employer.
  • If applicable, Form 8316,Information Regarding Request for Refund of Social Security Tax Erroneously Withheld on Wages Received by a Nonresident Alien on an F, J, or M Type Visa (PDF)

File Form 843 (with attachments) with the IRS office where your employer’s Forms 941 returns were filed.

You can locate the IRS office where your employer files his Form 941 by going to Where to File Tax Returns.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions about claiming FICA tax refund. Also, read the comments shared here. It will be helpful.

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  1. Thank you for all the detailed explanation above.

    I had followed the same procedure for claim towards FICA during my CPT period and submitted all the above stated documents to IRS. but its been 6 months I still did not receive any reply or mail from IRS stating the refund. Is there any tracking system or any website shows the update of that applications or status of the refund ?
    Please Help!!

    1. Author

      There’s no known way to check the status and FICA can take 4 to 6 months. Perhaps others in here can comment, how long it took to get refund.

    2. Hi,

      Can you tell me where did you submit all your documents? I mean which office?

  2. Hi ,

    I left US in Oct 2015 and had income from Jan – Oct 2015. Can I still file tax return ?

  3. HI,

    I started working form 1st march on F-1 OPT and was working for the same employer till 31st december.
    then My h1b got picked and it started from 1st october .

    So for this year i worked 7 month son opt and 3 months on h1. But my employer deducted social security and medicre for whole 10 months. ( i mean each month he deducted and i did not know, thinking it will come back in tax return). but now i have left my employer in this new year.

    So i need a letter from my employer but i cant ask him as we are not in ver y good terms. Can some one please help. how to get the return?

  4. How to get back FICA and the return from Medicare? I worked in NDSU when I paid for FICA and paid for Medicare when I worked in UCDAVIS.

  5. Hi Raghuram,

    I am on OPT Status. When I was with my previous employer, I paid SSN Tax for couple of months, in the last year, and now I am with another employer. I just have a letter from my previous employer stating that there was SSN tax which needs to be refunded to me, being on OPT. Do I also need to have my previous employer to submit a Form 941 for this? Or shall I go ahead and submit the forms 843 and 8316 to IRS with required supportive documents as mentioned in the article? Can you please suggest?


  6. Hi Raghuram,

    I am currently on my OPT and have just started working in the United States. I have a question regarding the W-8BEN form. What information needs to filled in Part II of the form? I have been unable to find the Article name or the % rate I can claim as an F-1 visa holder. I tried the online resources of the IRS, but couldn’t figure it out. My employers are also unfamiliar with the process, so any help you could provide would be most appreciated.

    I have also attached the link to the W-8BEN below:


    Jahan Nargolwala

  7. Thank you for the information you’ve provided.
    I do have a question for you – I am a PhD student and have been on an F1 VISA for the past eight years or so. So, for tax purposes I am resident alien. While I am funded through a graduate assistantship in the Fall and Spring semesters, in the summer my department hires me part-time (so it is an on-campus job). Since, they must not be hiring me as “a student”, FICA is deducted from my summer payroll. So, my job function is still the same as the other 9 months but I end up having to pay FICA for the other three months.
    Do you think the FICA-exemption applies to my case? And if so, the same form you mentioned above should work for me?

    1. Author

      If you have been in USA over 5 years, FICA exemption doesn’t apply any more.

      1. I’ve been doing some reading on this, and I don’t think you’re 100% correct about the 5 year thing:

        I had a question about the form 843, but got sidetracked because I’ve definitely been here for over 5 years, but was an exempt individual for most of that time, as an F-1 student, meeting all visa reqs.

        My question was this: I’ve had multiple employers in the calendar year, and two of my W-2s show both soc. sec tax and medicare tax withheld. when I file my form 843, do I combine all of these together and add up the amounts, or do I file separately by type of tax withheld and for each employer? Thanks

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