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When an international student on F1 Visa completes 5 years in the United States, s/he becomes a tax resident. It means s/he pays taxes just like any other US citizen i.e., federal + state + social security + medicare + whatever. However, as long as s/he is still a full time student, s/he only pays federal taxes.
I finished 5 tax-years last year (fall-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010), so I became a tax resident starting January 2011. I just filed my taxes using Turbo Tax and got my refund in just 2 weeks. The only issue I had was to figure out if I need to pay social security and medicare taxes or not (since my school didn't deduct any of those taxes from my payroll). After a long wait time, I figured out that full time students (tax resident or tax non-resident) don't pay social security and medicare taxes. Full time international students on F1 Visa only pay federal and state taxes (in most states). But if you take employment somewhere while on F1 visa (optional or curriculum practical traning - OPT/CPT) and are no longer full time students, you have to pay all the taxes.
References: Communication with the payroll officer of the Human Resources department at the Univesity of Tennessee.
Keywords: F1 visa, fulltime student, international student, taxes, tax resident, tax non-resident, social security, medicare, federal tax, state tax, payroll deduction, 5 years.
March 15, 2012