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 isn't eligible to get an SSN, must use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).
Examples of Individuals Who Need an ITIN
- 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 qualifies for U.S. residency status based on the substantial presence test) who files a U.S. tax return but isn't eligible for an SSN
- An alien spouse claimed as an exemption on a U.S. tax return who isn't eligible for an SSN
- An alien individual eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a U.S. tax return but who isn't eligible for an SSN
- A nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher who is required to file a U.S. tax return or is claiming an exception to the tax return filing requirement and not eligible for an SSN
- A dependent/spouse of a nonresident alien U.S. visa holder, who isn't eligible for an SSN
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.
You must file Form W-7 (PDF), Application for IRS 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'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 certified copies. 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, 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. The documentation must also prove the dependent's current connection to the United States, such as a passport with date of entry or school records from a U.S. facility. 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. 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.
Other 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 can find a complete list of acceptable documentation in the Form W-7 Instructions.
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 (PDF), Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. 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 (CAAs). 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 (9 to 11 weeks if you submit the application during peak processing periods (January 15 through April 30) or if you're filing from overseas).
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) provides that ITINs issued before 2013 will no longer be in effect according to a schedule based on the date that an ITIN was issued. ITINs that contain the middle digits of 78 or 79 will no longer be in effect beginning January 1, 2017. In addition, under the PATH Act, 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 for more information.
For more information, refer to Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, Notice 2016-48, and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Also, visit Am I Eligible to Apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: April 14, 2017