W-4 Specifications for International Employees

Foreign individuals visiting the U.S. are classified as resident aliens or nonresident aliens for tax purposes. To determine the proper classification for an individual, see Determination of Residence Status for Tax Withholding.

Withholding on resident aliens. For income tax withholding purposes, resident aliens are treated the same as a U.S. citizen. Form W-9 should be completed and returned to the Payroll Department along with Form W-4.

Withholding on nonresident aliens. In general, if wages are paid to nonresident aliens, income tax, social security, and Medicare taxes must be withheld (unless excepted by regulations). However, income tax withholding from the wages of nonresident aliens is subject to the special rules shown in Form W-4 below. For exceptions to the general rules, see Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Non-resident Aliens and Foreign Corporations, and Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

Get a copy of Form W-4.

When completing Form W-4 nonresident aliens are required to:

  • Not claim exemption from income tax withholding.
  • Request withholding as if they are single, regardless of their actual marital status.
  • Claim only one allowance (if the nonresident alien is a resident of Canada, Mexico, Japan, or Korea, he or she may claim more than one allowance).
  • Request an additional income tax withholding amount, depending on the payroll period, as follows (UNC uses a monthly payroll period):

Payroll Period Additional Withholding

Payroll Period

Additional Withholding















Daily or Miscellaneous (each day of the payroll period)


Note: Nonresident alien students from India are not subject to the additional income tax withholding requirement.

A new Form W-4 must be completed and returned to the Payroll Department each calendar year. If no Form W-4 is completed or is completed incorrectly, withholding will automatically be set for single with zero exemptions.