Individual tax identification number ITIN

It is a widespread mistruth that undocumented immigrants who work but do not have social security numbers evade paying taxes for their wages. Just because you are undocumented does not exempt you from paying taxes like a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident would. An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN for short, is a 9-digit number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States for federal tax reporting and processing for people who work including undocumented immigrants. More specifically, an ITIN is given to certain foreign nationals, nonresidents, their dependents, and spouses who are not eligible for Social Security Numbers.

How to Obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number

Obtaining an Individual Tax Identification Number is not only your financial responsibility if you are working in the United States, but it can be greatly beneficial in showing “good moral character” and can also be used as evidence for your immigration case if you plan to adjust your immigration status later or are at risk of deportation. What’s more, it helps to prove that you will not become a public charge because it demonstrates your work.

To be issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, you need to complete Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.  Along with this form, you will need to provide documents proving your foreign alien status and identity.

 

w-7 form ITIN

Steps to File Form W-7, Application for IRS ITIN

The first line of the f0rm reminds people not to submit Form W-7 if they have or are eligible to get a U.S. Social Security Number. Next to that box, you will have to check if the purpose of filling out the form is to 1. Apply for a new ITIN or 2. Renew an existing ITIN.

The next section has you indicate the reason you are submitting the form.

w-7 form section 1

Following that, you will need to fill out all the biographic information including your first, middle, and last name, mailing address, foreign address, birth information, and information related to your immigration status. If you have a foreign tax I.D. number, fill that in on 6b. If you have a type of U.S. visa, fill that in on line 6c. Finally, on line 6d, select the identification document you are submitting. At the very bottom of the page, you will need to sign under penalty of perjury that the information you provided is accurate and complete to the best of your knowledge. Also, date and include a contact phone number.

Who Can Get An Individual Taxpayer ID Number?

The following individuals can qualify to get an ITIN:

  • Undocumented immigrants without legal status in the U.S.
  • Non-U.S. residents (living outside of the U.S. and receiving income from owning/investing in a business within the U.S.)
  • International students who qualify as residents
  • Spouses/dependents of LPRs, U.S. citizen or foreign national in the U.S. on a temporary visa

Difference Between a SSN and an ITIN

One of the major differences between a Social Security Number (SSN) and an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is that a Social Security Number is assigned to U.S. citizens and authorized non-citizens. At the same time, the government can issue an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to undocumented immigrants and nonresident immigrants who work in the United States and all the other individuals in the paragraph above. In some states, you can use your ITIN to apply for a driver’s license instead of a Social Security Number. It can also be used when opening an interest-bearing bank account or applying for credit cards.

Other Types of Taxpayer Identification Numbers

These are some other forms of identification numbers the IRS or government may use for purposes of tax accounting and processing:

  • PTIN – Preparer Taxpayer Identification Number
  • ATIN – Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions
  • EIN – Employer Identification Number
  • SSN – Social Security Number

ITIN Eligibility: Who needs an ITIN number?

You are eligible for an ITIN number if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You do not have a Social Security Number and are not eligible for one
  • You need to file a federal income tax return or need to provide a federal tax ID number
  • You are either a:
    • Nonresident alien required to file a United States tax return
    • U.S. resident alien filing a tax return
    • Dependent or spouse of a resident alien or U.S. citizen
    • Dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder
    • Nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit
    • Nonresident alien professor, student, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exemption

Do all of the aforementioned points sound like you? If yes, then you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). 

Eligibility for a Social Security Number

You are eligible for a Social Security Number if you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or a non-citizen who has received work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To obtain a Social Security Number, individuals who are 18 years old or older can apply for the SSN in their home country while they apply for an immigrant visa with the United States Department of State. Therefore, about three weeks after you arrive in the United States, you can expect your social security card to arrive as well. This is the most recommended process because it saves you time finding a Social Security office when you come to the United States to apply.

If you do not apply at the same time as your immigrant visa, you will need to bring your approval notices and petition along with your immigration status and work authorization to a Social Security office in the U.S. Make sure when you go to the Social Security office you have your passport with your immigrant visa or Permanent Resident Card, your birth certificate plus the birth certificate of any family member also applying for a SSN.

Documents to Submit for ITIN

As previously mentioned, you need to file Form W-7 to apply for your ITIN. Along with that, you are required to submit proof of identity (a document that shows a photo of you and is not expired) and proof of your connection to your home country (a valid passport from that country will meet this requirement). You can apply for your ITIN number at the same time you file federal taxes with the IRS. If you choose to do so, you would complete your U.S. tax return and attach your W-7 along with the other documents and send it to the IRS.

If you do not have an unexpired passport, the supporting documents below can be acceptable.

supporting documents ITIN

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get my ITIN number?

To get your ITIN, you must complete Form W-7 with the IRS. The cost to apply for your ITIN number is free.  If you have already applied for one in the past and are trying to locate a copy of the number, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. 

What is the difference between a social security number and an ITIN?

A SSN is assigned to U.S. citizens and authorized non-citizens. At the same time, the government can issue an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to undocumented immigrants and nonresident immigrants who work in the United States as well as the following:

  • Nonresident alien required to file a United States tax return
  • U.S. resident alien filing a tax return
  • Dependent or spouse of a resident alien or U.S. citizen
  • Dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder
  • Nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit
  • Nonresident alien professor, student, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exemption

Can an illegal immigrant get an ITIN?

Yes, undocumented aliens can obtain Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers.

Do I need to renew my ITIN? 

You need to renew your ITIN number if it has expired or will expire before filing a tax return in 2021. If you write an expired ITIN number on a U.S. tax return, the IRS will process it and consider it filed timely, but they will not process any exemptions and/or credits claimed, and they will not pay out a refund at the time. They will also notify you that the ITIN number you submitted is expired and explain the delay for your refund.

Does an ITIN provide work authorization or legal status?

No, it does not constitute a work authorization and should not be used on an I-9 Form to prove work authorization. It also does not constitute legal status in the United States.

What can I use an ITIN for?

Apart from using an ITIN as proof of residency, you can also open an interest-bearing bank account in the United States (if you do not have a SSN). You can also use it in some states to secure a driver’s license, permit, or state ID.

How much does it cost to get an ITIN number?

The is no charge from the IRS for an ITIN.

Are there services to obtain an ITIN on my behalf?

Some companies offer services to help you get an ITIN. The IRS requires that you submit original documents along with the W-7 form, so if your means of identification is your passport, that means you could be without it for a prolonged period of time. Some of these services can verify the authenticity and submit the application on your behalf can do so much faster so that you are not without your identification documents for months at a time. If you elect to do this, make sure the company is highly reputable. Some tax filing services offer ITIN application assistance for free when you use their paid tax prep services.

When should I apply for an ITIN?

You can apply for it when you are ready to file your U.S. income tax return or at any point throughout the year. However, be aware that if you attach a tax return to the Form W-7 and submit it after the tax return filing due date, you can be liable for penalties or interest fees.

How long does ITIN processing take?

It can take anywhere from 7-11 weeks for the IRS to process and assign you an Individual Tax Identification Number. If you have waited that long and still do not have a number, it is best to call the IRS for the status at 1-800-829-1040 (within the United States). For those outside the U.S., call 1-267-941-1000 (not toll-free).

Can an Individual Tax Identification Number be used to locate an undocumented immigrant?

No, the government does not use ITIN to track undocumented individuals. It is exclusively used for tax accounting purposes, and the IRS does not share this information with immigration enforcement. Based on Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it prohibits the release of tax information to other government agencies except for giving information to the Treasury Department for investigations related to tax administration or pursuant to court order “information may be shared with law enforcement agencies for investigation and prosecution of non-tax criminal laws.”

Where is the ITIN assignment date located?

The assignment date is found on the CP565 ITIN Assignment notice. If you cannot locate it, you can call 1-800-829-1040 (within the United States) or 1-267-941-1000 if outside the U.S.

Am I able to send the IRS copies of my identification documents?

No, all identification documents submitted must be original or certified copies.

What do I do after receiving a notice that my ITIN will expire?

The sooner you renew your ITIN, the better. If you receive this notice for yourself, a dependent, or a spouse, it is best to start the renewal process. If you receive the notice after you already submitted your renewal documents, then ignore it. If the circumstances have changed and you now qualify to obtain a Social Security Number, you should get that instead of an ITIN.

Should I renew my ITIN if I am not filing a tax return?

While it is not necessary if you are not planning to file a return or claim a refund immediately, you will need to renew it if you plan to file a tax return at any point in the future.

If I get a Social Security Number, do I need to renew my ITIN?

You should not renew it if you either received or are eligible to obtain a SSN.