How To Fill Out W-4 and I-9 Forms

Congratulations! You did it. You got a paid job as an international student in the US. Your first day will be exciting, new and fun and you can’t wait to get to work, right? Well, before you get ahead of yourself, your employer will have several forms you will need to complete.

Two of those forms are the W-4 form (for tax withholding purposes) and the I-9 form (for employee eligibility verification purposes). Although these are very short forms, completing government paperwork can sometimes be a bit daunting and as an international student, you don’t always fill these out the same way your American counterparts do. Overwhelmed? No need. We’re here to help.

Here’s our guide to completing both forms. Because you were smart enough to get into college, we won’t walk you through the basics such as your name and address (we believe in you, you can do this on your own). Please note you will be using your US address on these!


This form will determine how much in taxes your employer will withhold from your paycheck and send to your IRS. The number of withholding allowances you choose will determine whether you will owe money to the IRS when you file your tax returns or whether you will get some money back. If you’re a resident from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, a U.S. national, or a student or business apprentice from India, there are different options for you when it comes to allowances and dependents. Learn more about this here.

Here are some things to know when filling out this form:

  1. The worksheet portion of the form is for your use only – you do not need to submit this to your employer. Because international students have rules in terms of how many dependents or allowances they can have, there is no need to complete this portion since the math will not add up.
  2. Regardless of marital status, you can only claim yourself as a dependent. So, on line 3 you will select “Single.”
  3. Claim only one withholding allowance on line 5.
  4. Do not claim “Exempt” withholding status on line 7.
  5. Write “Nonresident Alien” or “NRA” above the dotted line on line 6.

FORM 1-9

This form allows employers to ensure that you are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Here are some things to know when filling out this form:

  1. As an international student, if you’re under CPT or OPT (or have an on-campus job) you are an alien authorized to work. Include the expiration date of your work authorization (this is not necessarily the date your F-1 visa expires – if you’re on OPT this is the expiration date of your EAD).
  2. You then have to choose if you want to include your USCIS number, I-94 number or passport number. The easiest way to go here is to include your passport number.
  3. Your employer will require you present certain documents establishing identity and work authorization. As an international student, your passport and I-20 will suffice. If you’re on OPT and have an EAD card, you can present that as well.

Easy enough? Congrats on the new gig and go get ’em!

*For more information, always visit the IRS website.

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