If you are either a resident or a nonresident alien departing the United States, you will usually have to show that you have complied with the U.S. income tax laws before departing from the United States. You do this by obtaining a tax clearance document, commonly called a "Departure Permit" or "Sailing Permit" from the IRS.
There are six categories of people not required to obtain a departure permit or sailing permit:
- Category 1. Representative of foreign government with diplomatic passports, members of their household, and servants accompanying them.
- Category 2. Employees of international organizations and foreign government (other than those exempt under category 1) and members of their households.
- Category 3. Alien students, industrial trainees, and exchange visitors, including their spouses and children, who enter on an F-1, F-2, H-3, H-4, J-1, J-2, or Q visa.
- Category 4. Alien students, including their spouses and children, who enter on an M-1 or M-2 visa.
- Category 5. Certain other aliens temporarily in the United States who have received no taxable income during the tax year up to and including the date of departure or during the preceding tax year.
- Category 6. Alien residents of Canada or Mexico who frequently commute between that country and the United States for employment.
To find out whether you belong in one of these excluded categories, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.
If you do not fall into one of the above categories, you must obtain a departure or sailing permit. To obtain a permit, file Form 1040-C (PDF) or Form 2063 (PDF) (whichever applies) with your local IRS office before you leave the United States.
This is a short form that asks for certain information but does not include a tax computation. The following departing aliens can get their departure or sailing permits by filing Form 2063:
- Aliens, whether resident or nonresident, who have had no taxable income for the tax year up to and including the date of departure and for the preceding year, if the period for filing the income tax return for that year has not expired.
- Resident aliens who have received taxable income during the tax year or preceding year and whose departure will not hinder the collection of any tax. However, if the IRS has information indicating that the aliens are leaving to avoid paying their income tax, they must file a Form 1040-C.
Aliens in either of these categories who have not filed an income tax return or paid income tax for any tax year must file the return and pay the income tax before they can be issued a departure or sailing permit on Form 2063.
If you must get a departure or sailing permit and you do not qualify to file Form 2063, you must file Form 1040-C.
Ordinarily, all income received or reasonably expected to be received during the tax year up to and including the date of departure must be reported on Form 1040-C and the tax on it must be paid. When you pay any tax shown as due on the Form 1040-C, and you file all returns and pay all tax due for previous years, you will receive a departure or sailing permit. However, the IRS may permit you to furnish a bond guaranteeing payment instead of paying the taxes for certain years.
You must obtain your departure or sailing permit before you leave the United States. You should apply for the departure or sailing permit no earlier than 30 days before you plan to leave, but at least two weeks in advance of your departure. To get your departure permit, visit your nearest Taxpayer Assistance Center (walk-in IRS office). If you are married to an alien who is leaving the country with you, both of you must go to the IRS office. For information on the location of the Taxpayer Assistance Center nearest to you, call 800-829-1040, or visit www.irs.gov.
You must bring with you all the following records and information for the current year that apply to you:
- A valid passport and your alien registration card or visa.
- Copies of the last two years' U.S. income tax returns with proof of payment of any balances due.
- Proof of any payments of estimated tax for the past year and this year.
- Substantiation of deductions for business expenses and itemized deductions claimed.
- Documentation for dependents claimed.
- A statement from each employer showing the wages paid and tax withheld from January 1 to the date of departure (For this statement, you can use a payroll deduction slip for your last paycheck, if it shows this information).
- If you are self-employed, you must bring a profit and loss statement for the current year up to the date of departure.
- Documents showing any gain or loss from the sale of personal and/or real property, including capital assets and merchandise.
- Documents concerning scholarships or fellowship grants.
- Documents indicating that you qualify for any special tax treaty benefits.
- Document verifying your date of departure from the United States, such as an airline ticket.
- Document verifying your U.S. taxpayer identification number, such as a social security card or an IRS issued CP 565 showing your individual taxpayer identification (ITIN) number.
If you have these documents and pay any tax due you should receive your departure or sailing permit immediately. For additional rules and information, refer to Publication 519.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 12, 2013