How to apply for an ITIN number

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How to apply for an ITIN number

Even if you’re not eligible to get a Social Security Number (SSN), you’ll still need to file income taxes in the United States if you live and work here. If this is your situation, don’t worry—there is a way to do so.

You’ll just need an ITIN number.

So, are you wondering how to get an ITIN number? Similar to the process of getting a social security card replacement, acquiring an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a little tedious and requires specific qualifications to be met and paperwork to be filled out.

This guide will take you through the steps of how to apply for ITINs, the average timeframe, and ways to streamline the process.

Do you need an ITIN?

First, let’s make sure you’re in the right place. According to the IRS, you’ll need an ITIN if you meet both of the following criteria:

  • You’re not eligible for and don’t have a SSN
  • You must file a federal income tax return

Along with these two requirements, you’ll need to fit into one of the following categories:

  • Nonresident alien
  • U.S. resident alien filing a U.S. tax return
  • Dependent or spouse of a non-resident alien visa recipient
  • Spouse or dependent of a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing an income tax return
  • Nonresident alien claiming a tax treaty benefit

What is an ITIN?

So, what is an ITIN? An ITIN is a nine-digit number used for federal tax reporting purposes. The first digit is always a 9 and the fourth is either a 7 or 8.

For example, an ITIN will look like this: 9xx-7x-xxxx.

What is the difference between an ITIN vs a SSN? An ITIN is similar to a SSN in structure, although there are fewer things you can do with an ITIN. Along with paying taxes, an ITIN allows you to:

  • Open a bank account
  • Obtain a driver’s license in some states
  • Provide residency proof

When your goal is to eventually apply for legal United States residency, demonstrating that you’ve lived in the U.S. and paid taxes can aid your application. Furthermore, if you’re eligible for a SSN in the future, the income you reported under your ITIN may count toward your Social Security earnings.

Your ITIN doesn’t provide you some benefits of a SSN, such as:

  • Authorization to work
  • Eligibility for Social Security benefits
  • Qualification for an Earned Income Tax Credit

What’s needed for an ITIN

There are several items you’ll need to obtain an ITIN. These include a W-7 application IRS form, a completed federal tax return, and one of the following documents to confirm proof of your identity and foreign status: These are also the documents you might need when learning how to renew your ITIN number.

  • Passport
  • National ID Card
  • U.S. or Foreign Driver’s License
  • Civil Birth Certificate
  • U.S. State ID Card
  • Foreign Voter’s Registration Card
  • U.S. or Foreign Military ID
  • Visa
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Photo ID
  • Medical Records (children under 6)
  • School Records (children under 18)

You’ll be required to have the original document or certified copy with your application. Originals will be returned to you within 60 days.

2 Ways to apply for an ITIN

You can submit your application in person or by mail. Regardless of how you chose to submit your application, you are required to fill out a W-7 form. GOV+ can help streamline this process to fill out the required paperwork.


Visiting a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center is one way to submit your application. Make sure you have your tax return and identification documents with you to avoid having to come back.

By mail

If you’d prefer not to submit your information in person, you can mail it. Because of the sensitive nature of the documents you’re sending, only use certified mail with a tracking number.

Can you apply online?

You can fill out the necessary paperwork online but then you must print it and submit it via one of the two options above.

Processing Timeline

The typical wait for notification from the IRS on your application status is 7 weeks. However, during the peak period between January 15 – April 30, it can take from 9 to 11 weeks.

To avoid having to set up an ITIN in person, simply fill out this form to apply for an ITIN online right now.


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