If, at the end of your tax year, you are married and one spouse is a U.S. citizen or a resident alien and the other is a nonresident alien, you can choose to treat the nonresident as a U.S. resident. This includes situations in which one of you is a nonresident alien at the beginning of the tax year and a resident alien at the end of the year and the other is a nonresident alien at the end of the year.
If you make this choice, the following two rules apply.
- You and your spouse are treated, for income tax purposes, as residents for all tax years that the choice is in effect.
- You must file a joint income tax return for the year you make the choice.
This means that neither of you can claim tax treaty benefits as a resident of a foreign country for a tax year for which the choice is in effect.
You can file joint or separate returns in years after the year in which you make the choice. taxmap/pubs/p54-002.htm#en_us_publink100047360
Pat Smith, a U.S. citizen, is married to Norman, a nonresident alien. Pat and Norman make the choice to treat Norman as a resident alien by attaching a statement to their joint return. Pat and Norman must report their worldwide income for the year they make the choice and for all later years unless the choice is ended or suspended. Although Pat and Norman must file a joint return for the year they make the choice, they can file either joint or separate returns for later years. taxmap/pubs/p54-002.htm#en_us_publink100047361
When Bob and Sharon Williams got married, both were nonresident aliens. In June of last year, Bob became a resident alien and remained a resident for the rest of the year. Bob and Sharon both choose to be treated as resident aliens by attaching a statement to their joint return for last year. Bob and Sharon must report their worldwide income for last year and all later years unless the choice is ended or suspended. Bob and Sharon must file a joint return for last year, but they can file either joint or separate returns for later years.
If you do not choose to treat your nonresident alien spouse as a U.S. resident, you may be able to use head of household filing status. To use this status, you must pay more than half the cost of maintaining a household for certain dependents or relatives other than your nonresident alien spouse. For more information, see Publication 501.
If you choose to treat your nonresident alien spouse as a U.S. resident, your spouse must have either an SSN or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
To get an SSN for a nonresident alien spouse, apply at a social security office or U.S. consulate. You must complete Form SS-5. You must also provide original or certified copies of documents to verify that spouse's age, identity, and citizenship.
If the nonresident alien spouse is not eligible to get an SSN, he or she can file Form W-7 with the IRS to apply for an ITIN. taxmap/pubs/p54-002.htm#en_us_publink100047364
Attach a statement, signed by both spouses, to your joint return for the first tax year for which the choice applies. It should contain the following:
- A declaration that one spouse was a nonresident alien and the other spouse a U.S. citizen or resident alien on the last day of your tax year and that you choose to be treated as U.S. residents for the entire tax year, and
- The name, address, and social security number (or individual taxpayer identification number) of each spouse. (If one spouse died, include the name and address of the person making the choice for the deceased spouse.)
You generally make this choice when you file your joint return. However, you can also make the choice by filing a joint amended return on Form 1040X. Attach Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ and print "Amended" across the top of the amended return. If you make the choice with an amended return, you and your spouse must also amend any returns that you may have filed after the year for which you made the choice.
You generally must file the amended joint return within 3 years from the date you filed your original U.S. income tax return or 2 years from the date you paid your income tax for that year, whichever is later. taxmap/pubs/p54-002.htm#en_us_publink100047365
The choice to be treated as a resident alien does not apply to any later tax year if neither of you is a U.S. citizen or resident alien at any time during the later tax year. taxmap/pubs/p54-002.htm#en_us_publink100047366
Dick Brown was a resident alien on December 31, 2006, and married to Judy, a nonresident alien. They chose to treat Judy as a resident alien and filed a joint 2006 income tax return. On January 10, 2008, Dick became a nonresident alien. Judy had remained a nonresident alien. Because Dick was a resident alien during part of 2008, Dick and Judy can file joint or separate returns for that year. Neither Dick nor Judy was a resident alien at any time during 2009 and their choice is suspended for that year. For 2009, both are treated as nonresident aliens. If Dick becomes a resident alien again in 2010, their choice is no longer suspended and both are treated as resident aliens. taxmap/pubs/p54-002.htm#en_us_publink100047367
Once made, the choice to be treated as a resident applies to all later years unless suspended (as explained earlier) or ended in one of the ways shown in Table 1-1 below.
If the choice is ended for any of the reasons listed in Table 1-1, neither spouse can make a choice in any later tax year.