How to Get an ITIN Number: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

 
  << How To Go Back to School as an Immigrant
 

Do you need to get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number? Here’s how to get an ITIN this year. 

What is an ITIN?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is a tax processing number issued by the IRS. The purpose of an ITIN is to ensure those who work in the U.S. have a method of paying taxes, even if they don’t qualify for a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration

Like Social Security numbers, the ITIN is also nine digits long. If you’re a qualifying non-resident or a resident alien (green card holder), you, your spouse, and your dependents can receive an ITIN.

Anyone who earns income from the U.S. is required to get a tax ID number, since they’re obligated to pay taxes on what they earn.

Getting started with your ITIN number

There are three ways you can apply for an ITIN:

  1. Go through an IRS-authorized Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). These services are available both inside and outside the U.S. In most cases, you must make an appointment. Bring original documents to prove your eligibility
  2. Apply at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. The IRS requires you to make an appointment and provide original documents proving your eligibility.
  3. Mail an application: The IRS allows you to apply for an ITIN at the same time you file your taxes. To do so, you submit a W-7 form and complete a tax return. You’ll also need to provide original or certified copies of documents proving your identity and foreign status

Once you receive your ITIN, you’ll be able to use it to file taxes in the future.

Documents for the ITIN application 

No matter how you choose to apply for an ITIN, the IRS will ask you to provide at least two types of documents:

  1. Proof of identity
  2. Proof of your foreign nationality or U.S. residency status

What counts as proof of identity for the IRS?

  • Passport (this can prove both your identity and residency status)
  • A U.S. Department of State-issued visa
  • U.S. driver’s license
  • Photo ID issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • U.S. military identification card
  • Foreign driver’s license
  • Foreign military identification card
  • U.S. state identification card
  • Foreign civil birth certificate
  • Foreign medical records (for dependents under six years old)
  • National ID card with your name, address, date of birth, photo, and expiration date
  • Foreign voter’s registration card
  • Foreign school records (for dependents who are students and under 18 years old)

How to get an ITIN number: woman holding an American flag

Current ITIN processing time

Once you apply for an ITIN, you can expect to hear from the IRS about the status of your application within seven weeks. 

To prevent delays, make sure you’ve provided the correct information and sent all the required supporting documentation. Incomplete or incorrect applications may take longer to process.

If seven weeks go by, and you don’t receive a response, you can call the IRS to check on the status of your ITIN application

  • If you’re in the United States, call toll-free at (800) 829-1040. 
  • If you’re currently outside the United States, dial (267) 941-1000.

How to get an ITIN number: colleagues talking to each other

Who can get an ITIN?

Anyone who needs to file a U.S. tax return can get an ITIN, regardless of their U.S. immigration status. That includes both resident and non-resident immigrants.

You can apply for an ITIN if you’re:

  • The dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen, resident alien, or non-resident alien visa holder;
  • A non-resident who needs to file a federal income tax return;
  • A resident foreign national working in the U.S.; or
  • Living outside the United States but working for a U.S. company.  

If you’re unsure whether you need an ITIN, check with your employer.

IRS.gov has a wealth of useful information about the process for non-residents. They also have special resources for international students, military members, and others.

What’s the difference between an ITIN and an SSN?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues ITINs, while the issuing agency for the SSN is the Social Security Administration, or SSA.

An ITIN is a tax ID number. It serves no other purpose aside from federal tax reporting. This means that anyone who is required to file taxes in the U.S. will be eligible for an ITIN, no matter their immigration status

An ITIN by itself does not qualify anyone to work in the United States.

A Social Security number is only issued for citizens and qualifying resident aliens, such as green card holders. This number keeps track of the years you’ve worked in the U.S. and your lifetime earnings. 

Lawful residents who can legally work in the U.S. with SSNs can qualify for additional benefits such as:

  • Unemployment income
  • Social Security disability
  • Access to federal loans and subsidies
  • Medicare enrollment (health benefits for seniors)

ITIN holders do not qualify for such Social Security benefits.

How to get an ITIN number: worker handling a machine

Getting an ITIN: Top FAQs

1. How often do I have to renew the ITIN?

Once you receive your ITIN, the IRS requires you to revalidate it every five years. If you don’t use your ITIN for three consecutive years, it will expire.

If you need to renew your ITIN, you’ll follow the same process as applying for a new ITIN. However, if you mail in your renewal application, you can simply send along a form W-7 with supporting documents—no need to attach a tax return

2. Can I get the Child Tax Credit with an ITIN?

Yes. The IRS clarifies that you need either an ITIN or an SSN to get the Child Tax Credit. Of course, you’ll only receive that credit if meet the other reporting requirements for it. You can learn more here.

3. Can I get a tax refund with an ITIN?

As long as you qualify for a refund, and you have filed your taxes correctly, then yes. ITIN holders are no different from SSN holders when it comes to getting a tax refund.

4. What form do I use to apply for an ITIN?

Complete IRS form W-7 to apply for an ITIN. You can find an online copy of form W-7 here.

5. Can I get Social Security benefits with an ITIN?

No. The Internal Revenue Service states clearly that an ITIN does not provide eligibility for Social Security benefits.

6. Can I get the Child Tax Credit with an ITIN?

Yes. The IRS clarifies that you need either an ITIN or an SSN to get the Child Tax Credit. Of course, you’ll only receive that credit if meet the other reporting requirements for it. You can learn more here.

7. Can I get a tax refund with an ITIN?

As long as you qualify for a refund, and you have filed your taxes correctly, then yes. ITIN holders are no different from SSN holders when it comes to getting a tax refund.

8. Can I get the Earned Income Tax Credit with an ITIN?

No. The IRS states that ITIN holders do not qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit

9. Do I require an ITIN to open a bank account?

No, not always. When you open a checking account or a savings account, you’ll need to verify your identity. You can do this with an SSN or an ITIN, but some banks will also accept other forms of ID. These might include a passport number or other government-issued ID number.

For instance, Remitly’s Passbook spending account doesn’t require an ITIN or a Social Security number.

Remitly is not a bank; banking services are provided by Sunrise Banks N.A. The Passbook Visa® debit card is issued by Sunrise Banks N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. The card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.

About Remitly

If you’re sending money back home to friends and family, Remitly has you covered. We make international money transfers faster, easier, and more affordable. Download the Remitly app to get started.

Further reading