A taxpayer identification number (TIN) is required on all returns, statements, and other tax-related documents and you must provide it upon request to any other person who needs it to comply with the tax law. For most individuals, their TIN is a social security number (SSN). A foreign person, who doesn't have and can't get an SSN, must use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). A foreign person may be a resident alien for income tax purposes based on his or her days of presence in the United States. See discussion of the "Substantial Presence Test" in Topic No. 851, Resident and Nonresident Aliens for more information.
Examples of Individuals Who Need an ITIN
- A nonresident alien individual claiming a tax treaty benefit
- A nonresident alien filing a U.S. tax return
- A resident alien (who is treated as a resident alien for income tax purposes based on his or her days of presence in the United States) who files a U.S. tax return
- A resident or nonresident alien individual who can be claimed as a dependent of a U.S. citizen or resident alien on a U.S. tax return
- A resident or nonresident alien spouse who isn't filing a U.S. federal tax return (including a joint return) but who can be claimed as a dependent on a U.S. tax return
- A resident or nonresident alien electing to file a joint tax return with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- A nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception
- A resident or nonresident alien individual who can be claimed as a dependent or a spouse of a nonresident alien U.S. visa holder
For Federal Tax Purposes Only
An ITIN is issued for federal tax filing purposes only and doesn't entitle you to social security benefits nor does it 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.
Applying for an ITIN
You must file Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (PDF) 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'll 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 must verify both your identity and your foreign status. Most applicants must include original documents. Nonresident aliens claiming tax treaty benefits must submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency. Dependents of U.S. military personnel are required to submit original documents or certified copies unless the required documents to prove foreign status and identity are notarized by an agent of the Department of Defense. A copy of a U.S. military ID is required if the documents are notarized. If you don't submit a passport document (with a date of entry, if for a dependent), you must provide a combination of at least two documents that are current (that is, not expired) and that, taken together, (1) verify your identity (contain your name and a photograph), and (2) support your claim of foreign status. An exclusive list of documents that are acceptable for this purpose is included in the Instructions for Form W-7. Some 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 issued by the Department of State.
If the ITIN is for a dependent, and the dependent's passport doesn't have a date of entry, then you may submit medical records, if the dependent is under the age of 6, or school records from a U.S. facility, if the dependent is at least 6 years of age. However, if you're 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. This could include a birth certificate, adoption papers, or other court-appointed papers showing legal guardianship.
Applying by Mail or In Person - You can apply for your ITIN by mail or in person at designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) in the United States. TACs operate by appointment only. If you apply by mail, use the address shown in the Form W-7 Instructions and in Publication 1915, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (PDF). If applying outside the United States, see Obtaining an ITIN from Abroad for more information. If you apply in person, the IRS will review your documents and return them to you immediately. Applicants may also submit their applications by using the services of a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). CAAs are individuals, businesses, or organizations authorized by the IRS to assist taxpayers in the ITIN application process. After reviewing your application, the IRS will return your documentation to you. If your original documents haven't 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. Allow 7 weeks for the IRS to notify you in writing of your ITIN application status (up to 11 weeks if you submit the application during peak tax time (January 15 through April 30) or from abroad).
Expiration of ITINs
Any ITIN that's not used on a federal income tax return for three consecutive tax years, either as the ITIN of an individual who files the return or as the ITIN of a dependent included on a return, will expire on December 31 of the third consecutive tax year of non-use. See Notice 2016-48 (PDF) for more information.
- Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens
- Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
- Am I Eligible to Apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?
- VITA sites that offer CAA services