I live in Sweden and I got married last year to my Swedish wife. We have no children or dependencies.

Does she have to file any USA tax forms? Can I just file Married Filing Separately and she does nothing?

She doesn't have SSN, and no green card. We live and make all income in Sweden and only visit USA less than 90 days in a 1 year period.

2 Answers 2


Per the IRS instructions on filing as Head of Household as a Citizen Living Abroad, if you choose to file only your own taxes, and you qualify for Head of Household without them, the IRS does not consider you married:

If you are a U.S. citizen married to a nonresident alien you may qualify to use the head of household tax rates. You are considered unmarried for head of household purposes if your spouse was a nonresident alien at any time during the year and you do not choose to treat your nonresident spouse as a resident alien. However, your spouse is not a qualifying person for head of household purposes. You must have another qualifying person and meet the other tests to be eligible to file as a head of household.

As such, you could file as Married Filing Separately (if you have no children) or Head of Household (if you have one or more children, a parent, etc. for whom you paid more than half of their upkeep - see the document for more information).

You also may choose to file as Married Filing Jointly, if it benefits you to do so (it may, if she earns much less than you). See the IRS document Nonresident Spouse Treated As Resident for more information. If you choose to treat her as a resident, then you must declare her worldwide income. In some circumstances this will be beneficial for you, if you earn substantially more than her and it lowers your tax rate overall to do so. Married Filing Separately severely limits your ability to take some deductions and credits, so it's well worth seeing which is better.

  • 1
    I have to say that the IRS documentation on this is pretty minimal if you don't qualify for HoH or want to do Jointly. It's quite hard to find anything that says you must file as Married Filing Separately...
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 16:27
  • If I have children who aren't US citizens, may I file as HoH? Is HoH preferable to Married Filing Separately? Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 7:52

When I was in this situation, I always did Married Filing Separately. In the space for spouse you just write "non resident alien". I'm assuming you don't make more than the Foreign Earned Income exclusion (about $100k), so the fact that you don't qualify for certain exemptions is probably irrelevant for you.

As a side note, now that you are married you have "a financial interest in" all her bank accounts so if her and your foreign bank accounts had an aggregate value of over $10k at any point in 2015 you have until June 30th to file an FBAR, listing both her and your accounts. If you have a decent amount of assets you might need to fill out form 8938 with your tax return too. Here is a link with the reporting thresholds.


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