How to File Taxes When Married to a Citizen of Another Country

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If you are married to a non-American spouse, your tax-filing status will depend on his immigration status in America and the sources of his income. If your spouse works in the U.S. and is a legal resident, your spouse is considered an American for tax purposes. If your spouse lives abroad, it may make sense to submit your taxes as married filing separately. Filing jointly will help make it easier for your spouse to apply for a green card, but filing separately could reduce your taxes if your spouse has foreign income.

Living in America

Download the income tax return forms off the Internal Revenue Service website.

List your spouse's green card or working visa number on the identification page of your tax return.

Mark married filing jointly as your filing status. This status will give you the greatest tax deductions for your income.

Combine all your income, all your spouse's American income, and all your spouse's foreign income as your gross income for the year. Because of his residency status, your spouse must report all foreign income to the IRS.

Complete the remainder of your return like a regular tax return. There will be no more differences because of your spouse's foreign status.

Spouse Lives Abroad

Consult your spouse about his goals to move to America. If he wants to apply for a green card, you should always apply as married filing jointly to achieve this goal.

Calculate your spouse's total foreign income and your total American income.

Prepare two sample tax returns to compare the taxes due between filing jointly and separately. When you file jointly, you will receive higher deductions for your taxes, but all your spouse's foreign income will be taxed by the IRS and by his foreign government. When you file separately, you will receive fewer tax deductions, but your spouse's foreign income will avoid taxation by the IRS.

Choose the filing option that creates the lowest total tax bill. If you include your spouse on your tax return, list that he is a foreign national on the identification page of your return.

Complete the rest of the return like a normal tax return.


  • Consider working with an accountant, especially if this is your first tax return with a foreign spouse. This will help you avoid mistakes and maximize your tax savings.