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Departing Aliens and the Sailing Permit

International Tax Gap Series

May 2009

Before leaving the United States or any of its possessions permanently or for an extended amount of time, all U.S. resident aliens and nonresident aliens (with certain exceptions) must prove they have met all federal tax requirements. This is done by obtaining a tax clearance document, commonly called a “sailing permit” or “departure permit”, from the IRS.

This article outlines who must get a sailing permit, who is exempt from this requirement, and how to get the tax clearance document.

Who is required to obtain a Sailing Permit?
Resident aliens
leaving only temporarily as well as resident or nonresident aliens with no taxable income can use Form 2063, U.S. Departing Alien Income Tax Statement, to apply for a sailing permit. Form 2063 is a short information form that, once obtained, can be used for all departures during the year.

Nonresident aliens who have any taxable income and resident aliens leaving the U.S. with no definite plans to return for the year will generally have to complete Form 1040-C, U.S. Departing Alien Income Tax Return, to receive a sailing permit. You must pay all tax shown as due on the Form 1040–C or you must furnish a bond prior to departure. Any tax paid with your Form 1040-C counts as a payment on the annual return filed after the end of the tax year (either a Form 1040NR for nonresident aliens or a Form 1040 for resident aliens). If the IRS sees that leaving the U.S. will not jeopardize the collection of the tax, then the tax may not need to be paid with the Form 1040-C.

Note: Lawful permanent resident aliens (green card holders) with no definite plans to return to the U.S. must notify the Department of Homeland Security of their termination of residency and file Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Information Statement, with the IRS if they:

  • plan to surrender their green card, and
  • have been a lawful permanent resident in at least 8 taxable years during the previous 15 taxable years, including the taxable year during which they surrender their green card

See the “Expatriation Tax” information in IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for more detailed information.

Who Is Exempt from Obtaining a Sailing Permit?
Certain classes of aliens are exempt from obtaining sailing permits. This includes foreign diplomats, employees of foreign governments, students, trainees and exchange visitors, and others who generally have no income subject to U.S. tax. For more details on who fall into these categories, refer to the “Departing Aliens and the Sailing or Departure Permit” information in IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

When and Where Can You Get a Sailing Permit?
Apply for your sailing permits at least two weeks, but no earlier than 30 days, before leaving the U.S.  To apply for a sailing permit, visit the nearest IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (walk–in office).  Refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for a list of items to bring when visiting the IRS Office.  For information on the location of the nearest IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, call 1-800–829–1040 or visit  Taxpayers located overseas can call  267-941-1000 (this is not a toll-free number) for assistance.

References and Links
  Departing Alien Clearance (Sailing Permit)
  Tax Assistance Center Locations
  Form 1040-C (PDF)
  Instructions for Form 1040-C (PDF)
  Form 2063 (PDF)
  Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (PDF)

Return to:
  The International Tax Gap Series

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 22-Jan-2015