A taxpayer identification number is required on all returns, statements, and other tax-related documents and you must provide it upon request to any other person who must include it on a return or statement. For most individuals, this is a Social Security number (SSN). A foreign person, who does not have and is not eligible to get an SSN, must use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Examples of individuals needing an ITIN include:
- A nonresident alien individual eligible to obtain the benefits of a reduced rate of withholding under an income tax treaty
- A nonresident alien not eligible for an SSN who is required to file a U.S. tax return or is filing a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund
- A nonresident alien not eligible for an SSN electing to file a joint tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- A U.S. resident alien who files a U.S. tax return but is not eligible for an SSN
- An alien individual claimed as a spouse for an exemption on a U.S. tax return, who is not eligible for an SSN
- An alien individual who is not eligible for an SSN, claimed as a dependent on another person's U.S. tax return, and
- A nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception to the tax return filing requirement and not eligible for an SSN
An ITIN is issued for federal tax purposes only. It does not entitle you to Social Security benefits and does not make you eligible for the earned income credit. The ITIN creates no inference concerning your immigration status or your right to work in the United States. ITINs will expire for any taxpayer who fails to file a federal income tax return for 5 consecutive years. Taxpayers needing to file a federal return can reapply to have their ITINs renewed if they have been deactivated. For more information about expiring ITINs, refer to IR-2014-76 on IRS.gov.
You must file Form W-7 (PDF), Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, to apply for an ITIN and to show that you have a federal tax purpose for seeking the ITIN. Along with the completed Form W-7, you will submit identity documents and either a federal tax return or other documentation to show the federal tax purpose for which you need the ITIN.
The identity documents verify both your identity and your foreign status. Most applications must include original documents. Applications for U.S. military spouses and dependents as well as nonresident aliens claiming tax treaty benefits may submit notarized or apostilled copies of required documents. If you do not submit a passport document, you must provide a combination of at least two or more documents that are current and that (1) verify your identity (contain your name and a photograph), and (2) support your claim of foreign status.
If the ITIN is for a dependent, the documentation must prove that the dependent is a U.S. National or a resident of the United States, Mexico, Canada, Republic of Korea (South Korea) or India. However, if you are living abroad and have adopted a foreign child, or have had a foreign child legally placed in your home pending an adoption, that child may be eligible for an ITIN. If the dependent is a minor, the documentation must establish the relationship between the dependent and the representative signing the application on the dependent's behalf. Such documentation could include a birth certificate, adoption papers or other court-appointed papers showing legal guardianship. In the case of dependents that are residents of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) or India, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, for additional documentation that may be required.
In addition to a passport, examples of acceptable documentation include national identification card (showing photo, name, current address, date of birth and expiration date), civil birth certificate, foreign driver's license or visa. You may find a complete list of acceptable documentation in the Form W-7 Instructions (PDF).
You can apply for your ITIN by mail or in person at designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers in the United States. If you apply in person, the IRS will review your documents and return them to you. Publication 1915 (PDF), Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, has a list of IRS offices abroad that can accept Form W-7. Applicants may also submit their applications by using the services of a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAAs). CAAs are individuals, businesses or organizations authorized by the IRS to assist taxpayers in the ITIN application process. If you apply by mail, use the address shown in the Form W-7 Instructions and in Publication 1915. After reviewing your application, the IRS will return your documentation to you. If your original documents have not been returned within 60 days, you may call 800-829-1040 (in the United States), or 267-941-1000 (outside the United States), to find out about the status of your documents. It takes approximately 6 weeks (8-10 weeks during peak tax time, January 15 through April 30) for the IRS to notify you in writing of your ITIN.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 22, 2014