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Navigating Financial Planning for International Students on F1 Visas

Recently our mobile app community received the following question:

We were surprised at the lack of direct information available to answer this question. So we decided to share the information we found and our responses.

What is an F-1 visa?

An F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa given to individuals who are attending full-time academic studies at a college, university, or other academic institution. F-1 visa holders are generally allowed to remain in the United States for the duration of their studies, as well as a period of practical training after graduation.

F-1 visa holders are allowed to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and may be permitted to work off-campus in certain circumstances, such as during vacation periods or after graduation. They may also be eligible for optional practical training, which allows them to work off-campus in their field of study for a limited period of time.

Investing with an F-1 visa

In general, F-1 visa holders are allowed to invest in a variety of financial assets, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). They may also be able to invest in real estate, either by purchasing property directly or through a real estate investment trust (REIT). However, F1 visa holders are not allowed to do “day trading,”often defined as “4 or more trades per week.”

It is important to carefully consider the risks and potential returns of any investment, and to seek the advice of a financial advisor or other professional before making any investment decisions.

Taxes with an F-1 visa

As an F1 student you are required to file taxes. And if you invest, you will need to declare the investment and gains of your stock related investments for tax purposes and pay required tax on the gains. The brokerage firm you are using should provide you with a Form 1099 or similar after the end of the year.

Currently, foreign nationals, F1 Visas or H1B holders are subject to 30% tax on the dividends or any of the stock related capital gains. You will also need to submit a W-8BEN form with your stock broker for IRS tax purposes.

Check with your school or public library for free or low-cost voluntary tax services support, or check with a tax consultant.

High-yield saving accounts with an F-1 visa

Student visas don’t forbid you to generate passive income outside of school related opportunities but if you have an attorney, you may want to ask them as well. It also varies by institution, some make it easier than others.

And remember that you will have to report the money earned from your High-Savings-Account.

Helpful Resources:

If you have an immigration question for an attorney, check out this list of free immigration attorneys.

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