I live outside the US with my non-resident alien spouse. I want to file as married filing separately. However, in online tax preparation software, it always forces me to enter an ITIN or SSN for my spouse, even if she is a non-resident alien. Is this really required? I saw an article on HR Block that says "The nonresident spouse isn’t required to get a taxpayer ID number. You can put “NR” for your spouse’s tax ID number on your return." That would be very convenient as I wouldn't need to apply for her to get an ITIN. However, on this IRS website page, there is a line that says, "If your spouse is a nonresident alien and you file a joint or separate return, your spouse must have either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)". Nonetheless it seems a little strange that a non-resident alien spouse with no US income would need to apply for an ITIN just because she is the wife of a US citizen. Even if I file separately, do I still need to enter an ITIN for my spouse? Or can I just write "NR"? Thanks.

1 Answer 1


In the Form 1040 instructions, section for filing status Married Filing Separately (on page 13), it says:

Check the “Married filing separately” box at the top of Form 1040 or 1040-SR if you are married and file a separate return. Enter your spouse’s name in the entry space below the filing status checkboxes. Be sure to enter your spouse’s SSN or ITIN in the space for spouse’s SSN on Form 1040 or 1040-SR. If your spouse doesn’t have and isn’t required to have an SSN or ITIN, enter “NRA.”

(emphasis mine)

So yes, it seems you can write "NRA" in the space for your spouse's SSN/ITIN in your case.

  • Thanks so much. Wow, so I guess IRA also makes mistakes on their website.
    – Philip
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 13:33
  • I think the quote you consider a "mistake" is only relevant for resident aliens; your wife is not a resident alien, as neither of you reside in the US.
    – chepner
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 14:08

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