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Published: January 24, 2022   |   Last Updated: February 11, 2022

Getting an ITIN

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a nine-digit number issued by the IRS to be used on a tax return.

You need this number if you’re required to file a tax return and you don’t have and aren’t eligible to get a Social Security number (SSN). For example: If you’re a foreign national, regardless of your immigration status, you must apply to the IRS for an ITIN if you have a U.S. tax filing or reporting requirement. Even if you don’t have a tax return filing requirement, you may need an ITIN to file a return to receive a refund for any 2021 child tax credit for which you are eligible.

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What do I need to know?

You will usually file an ITIN application, Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, with your first tax return, which you must file as a paper return, not electronically. There are some exceptions to apply for an ITIN without also submitting a tax return – generally, when you’re claiming the benefits of a tax treaty, or when third parties (like a bank or other financial institution) need your ITIN for their reporting. All the exceptions are listed in the ITIN application instructions.

Documentation needed to apply for an ITIN

ID documents, which must:

  • Be current;
  • Verify your identity (contain your name); and
  • Support your claim of foreign status.

The application – Form W-7

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What should I do?

Apply for an ITIN

The application — Form W-7Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number — asks details about why you need an ITIN and requires you to send in certain documents to prove your foreign status and identity.

Documentation needed

The documents must:

  • Be current;
  • Verify your identity (contain your name); and
  • Support your claim of foreign status.

At least one document must contain your photograph. A current passport would meet all these requirements and is the only document you can submit on its own. Otherwise, you must send two documents.

The IRS has a long list of documents or combinations of documents that can show your status and identity. All are listed in the Form W-7 instructions.

All documents must be originals or certified copies. A certified copy is one that the original issuing agency provides, and certifies as an exact copy of the original, and contains an official stamped seal from the agency. Certifying Acceptance Agents and many Taxpayer Assistance Centers, discussed below, may also certify certain documents.

Many applicants have reported the IRS lost their passports or other valuable and hard-to-replace identification documents. Consider getting certified copies or using one of the application methods listed below, rather than mailing original identification documents to the IRS.

Exceptions to the rule requiring original documents or certified copies include:

  • Military dependents and spouses;
  • Nonresident aliens claiming tax treaty benefits and not filing a tax return; and
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) participants.

Each of these groups has specific requirements to qualify. See IRS.gov – ITIN Updated Procedures Frequently Asked Questions.

Submitting the application

Applying in person

You can apply for an ITIN by bringing your completed forms and documentation to any IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center office. The staff can help you complete an application and will submit it for processing.

Certain offices can verify passports and national identification cards and return them immediately. A list of these in-person Document Review Taxpayer Assistance Centers is available on IRS.gov. This allows you to avoid mailing your original documents, or certified copies, to the IRS.

Applying through an Acceptance Agent

Acceptance Agents (AAs) and Certifying Acceptance Agents (CAAs) can help you complete applications.

The advantage to using Certifying Acceptance Agents (CAAs) is that for primary and secondary applicants (like a spouse), the CAA can certify that your documents are original and make copies to send to the IRS. That way, you won’t have to mail your originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.

NOTE:  CAAs must send original or certified copies of the documents to the IRS for all dependents; however, CAAs can authenticate the passport and birth certificate of a dependent.

Applying by mail

If none of the in-person options work for you, you can still submit your application by mail. We strongly suggest that you get certified copies of all your documents instead of sending originals. We also suggest you send the application and documents by certified mail so you’ll have evidence of when you filed the application and where you sent it.

NOTE: Make sure you send your IRS Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and your tax return to the address under Where to Apply in the Form W-7 instructions.

If you use the United States Postal Service:

Internal Revenue Service
ITIN Operation P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342

If you use any private delivery services:

Internal Revenue Service ITIN Operation
Mail Stop 6090 AUSC, 3651 S Interregional, Hwy 35
Austin, TX 78741-0000

If you must send original documents, you can send the IRS a prepaid express envelope with your application to have them returned faster.

Thoroughly read the Form W-7 instructions. Certain identification documents have very specific requirements about what they must include (For example: School records and medical records). If your documents don’t meet these requirements, even if they’re official records or your only records, the IRS will reject your ITIN application.

Applicants outside the United States

Applicants outside the United States should call 267-941-1000 (not a toll-free call) or apply through a Certified Acceptance Agent. Additional information is available to tell you how to get an ITIN while abroad.

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How will this affect me?

If you’re required to file a tax return and aren’t eligible for a Social Security number, you need to apply for an ITIN (See the What should I do? section, above).

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Wait, I still need help.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.

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