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Returning Member

I am a US Citizen but I live in Mexico. My new wife is from Mexico do I need to file a joint return or just claim her as a dependent?

My wife does not have a SS number because we live in Mexico
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New Member

I am a US Citizen but I live in Mexico. My new wife is from Mexico do I need to file a joint return or just claim her as a dependent?

If you are a United States citizen and are married to a Mexican citizen (i.e., nonresident alien for US tax purposes), then you have some options on how to file your US tax return, although current United States tax laws do not make this process particularly easy.

It is also helpful to point out that you cannot file a tax return as single, and ignore your nonresident alien spouse.  (We mention that fact because we are sometimes asked.)  Additionally, it is useful to know that the IRS considers those persons who are married as of midnight on December 31st of the year to have been married the whole entire year, for income tax purposes.  Thus, here are your two basic filing choices.

Option # 1:  You can file your US tax return as Married Filing Separately, and just report your own income there.  TurboTax can walk you through this process, and help you create the necessary Form 1040.  If your spouse does not already have an ITIN number, or a Social Security Number, then this return would have to further be printed and paper filed.  If your spouse has a valid ITIN or SSN, then the tax return would be eligible for e-filing.  If there is no ITIN or SSN, then in any place where the nonresident spouse's taxpayer ID number is required on a tax form, you would take a black or blue pen and manually write "nonresident alien" or abbreviate as "NRA."

You can also claim a personal exemption for your spouse, if your spouse had no gross taxable income for U.S. tax purposes, and was not the dependent of another taxpayer.  This mirrors the similar rule for US citizens and resident aliens filing as Married Filing Separately to claim the personal (dependency) exemption for their spouse, where that spouse has no taxable income, is not filing a separate tax return, and is not claimed as a dependent on any other taxpayer’s return.  But, in order to do this and claim the personal exemption, your spouse must also have a valid Social Security Number or an ITIN.

Option # 2:  You can elect to include your nonresident spouse on your US income tax return (which may be more or less tax favorable than Married Filing Separately); and file as Married Filing Jointly; but you would need to file a paper Form 1040 tax return in order to do so.  The somewhat complicated process for completing this type of tax return is explained in detail at the website here:

Such a tax return (Option # 2) is probably best done by a professional tax preparer.

If you choose Option # 1 and have any difficultly with that, then having the tax return prepared by a professional is also an option here too.

TurboTax has a helpful Frequently Asked Questions webpage about claiming international spouses and children, and you may wish to look at that as well.  Here is the link:

Also, you can read the complete answer to a similar question that was asked here about a year ago.  There is some good information and advice in there as well:

Thank you for asking this important question.

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