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[[I don't have an IRA because I've been working abroad for 11 years and thus
have no earned income in the US (declare only dividends & interest).]]

Hopefully you are reporting ALL of your foreign income from all sources. As a US citizen, you are required to report all of your income from all sources, foreign or domestic. If some of your income qualified for the foreign earned income exclusion, that's great. But the income must be reported, and you must make the election to take the foreign earned income exclusion. If this isn't what you have been doing, you would have a problem on your hands.

[[ In August
I move to the US on a full fellowship at a university.

I'm assuming the fellowship counts as earned income? But do they give you a

Generally speaking, the answer to both questions would be yes. But you really need to contact the University to see exactly what they will do, and how they will report it.

[[ Can I start a Roth IRA now knowing that I'll have earned income starting in
August, or should I wait till I actually have the fellowship funds in hand?]]

You certainly want to first make sure that the income will be treated as "earned". But you might be able to do that with a phone call now, and begin your Roth IRA now...and generate some additional earnings from now until August.

If you would like more information on Roth IRAs, see my posts in the Taxes FAQ area.

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