A Guide to Tax Information for Nonresident Winter Workers in the US

As winter beckons, the allure of seasonal work in the United States becomes increasingly enticing for individuals worldwide. Whether it’s the prospect of a ski resort job or employment in other winter-centric industries, understanding tax obligations is paramount. This comprehensive guide aims to illuminate the intricacies of tax-related considerations for nonresident winter workers.

Types of Winter Work Jobs in the US

The US winter season boasts a plethora of job opportunities, particularly within ski resorts. From the adrenaline-pumping roles of lift operators and ski instructors to the behind-the-scenes work of maintenance staff and ticket sellers, there’s a diverse array of positions available. Moreover, industries such as hospitality, retail, childcare, and construction also witness heightened demand for seasonal workers during this time.

Winter J-1 Work and Travel Visa vs. H-2B Visa

For nonresidents seeking seasonal employment in the US, two primary visa options exist:

  1. Winter J-1 Work and Travel Visa: This program caters to foreign students enrolled in full-time university courses in select countries, providing them with the opportunity to work during college breaks. Eligible countries include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. The J-1 visa facilitates a cultural exchange experience alongside employment opportunities.
  2. H-2B Visa: Designed as a sponsored exchange program, the H-2B visa allows eligible employers to hire nonresidents for temporary non-agricultural jobs in the US. Applicants must hail from eligible countries and possess a job offer from a sponsoring agency, demonstrating a shortage of US workers for the intended role. This visa option accommodates a broader range of applicants and offers longer durations compared to the J-1 visa.

Tax Obligations for Temporary Workers

Whether employed under the Winter J-1 Work and Travel program or the H-2B visa, nonresident workers are subject to federal income tax on earnings in the US. Additionally, state taxes may apply based on residency status. While J-1 visa holders are exempt from FICA tax, H-2B visa holders must comply with FICA tax obligations. It is imperative for workers to promptly provide necessary paperwork to employers to avoid potential tax withholding issues.

Determining Tax Residency Status

Understanding tax residency status is essential for accurate tax filing and compliance with IRS regulations. Typically, nonresidents pay tax solely on income sourced within the US, while residents are taxed on worldwide income. The Substantial Presence Test serves as a benchmark for determining tax residency, taking into account the number of days spent in the US over specific periods.

Tax Treaty Eligibility

The US maintains income tax treaties with numerous foreign countries, offering exemptions or reductions on certain types of income. It is advisable for nonresident workers to ascertain their eligibility for tax treaty benefits, which can help prevent overpayment of taxes.

Pre-Employment Tax Forms

Before commencing employment in the US, it is crucial for nonresident workers to complete pre-employment tax forms to ensure accurate taxation. Key forms include:

  1. Form W-4: This form enables employers to understand employees’ tax profiles and deduct the correct amount of taxes from their pay.
  2. Form 8233: Nonresident aliens utilize this form to claim tax treaty benefits, thereby avoiding excessive tax withholding.
  3. Form W-8BEN: Completion of this form helps nonresident aliens prevent double taxation on their earnings by declaring eligibility for tax treaty benefits.

Filing Tax Returns

Nonresident aliens earning income in the US must file tax returns using Form 1040-NR. This form requires individuals to provide personal details, including their name, address, Social Security Number (SSN), or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), along with a declaration of income sourced in the US. Filing accurately and adhering to tax deadlines is imperative to avoid potential penalties imposed by the IRS.


Navigating tax obligations as a nonresident winter worker in the US can seem daunting, but armed with the right information and understanding, it becomes manageable. By familiarizing oneself with visa requirements, tax residency status, and filing procedures, individuals can embark on their winter work journey confidently, ensuring compliance with tax laws and regulations.

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