What is an ITIN?

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What is an ITIN?
By Guy Lelouch
Published on Jun 08, 2022
Edited by Daniel Zeevi

There’s no lack of alphabet soup when dealing with the federal government. Simple acronyms for programs and rules bely the complex paperwork, intricate forms, and cryptic regulations that must be precisely adhered to. But with a little guidance and support, you can easily navigate the convoluted world of government agencies, especially the ITIN.

For nonresidents or immigrants in the United States, dealing with the federal documentation can be complex, particularly when using an ITIN—anIndividual Taxpayer Identification Number.

Wondering “what is my ITIN number?” and what the difference is between an ITIN vs a SSN?  An ITIN is a nine-digit tax identification number for those who are not eligible to receive a social security number (SSN). ITINs are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and are used for tax purposes only.

What is ITIN and why do I need it?

An ITIN or an individual tax return identification number is given to individuals within the United States who are required to pay a federal tax return but are not U.S. citizens. In addition to the individual filing the taxes, ITINs are also available to spouses and dependents who cannot get a social security number.

Those eligible for an ITIN include:

  • Non-resident aliens required to submit a tax form or claiming a tax treaty benefit
  • U.S. resident aliens required to submit a tax form
  • Dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder

This includes people with temporary visas, such as tourists and students, as well as those with permanent resident status. However, be aware that an ITIN does not grant you citizenship or immigration status, eligibility to work in the U.S., or eligibility for social security benefits.

Tax benefits of an ITIN

If you don’t have any immigration status or a SSN, an ITIN is your only way to file a return.

You may be required by law to file an income tax return based on your earned income. In addition to staying on the right side of the law, filing taxes using an ITIN can give you access to a range of benefits, including:

  • A possible tax refund
  • A child tax credit
  • Tax exemptions for minor children
  • The ability to file a joint tax return with your spouse

Additional benefits of an ITIN

Separate from taxes, obtaining an ITIN can be useful when:

  • Opening a bank account – Most banks accept ITINS to help you establish credit, save money, and keep your money safe.
  • Filing for immigration status –ITINs are valuable assets when documenting your physical presence and work history in the U.S., as well as when testifying to your character since individuals who pay their taxes are considered more trustworthy by the government.

How to renew an ITIN

So, are you wondering how to renew your ITIN number? You will need to renew your ITIN if it has expired or if your circumstances have changed and the IRS needs updated information from you. To that end, the IRS recommends that you renew your ITIN at least one month before the expiration date.

When renewing your ITIN, you will need to resubmit Form W-7 and identification documents to the IRS. You don’t need to wait to file your tax return to renew your ITIN. Instead, you can renew your ITIN at any point during the tax year before its expiration date.

If you have a spouse or dependents, all Form W-7s must be submitted at the same time. You can file the forms by mail, in-person with an IRS Certifying Acceptance Agent, or at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center that authenticates W-7 documents.

Once your forms are processed, you will receive your confirmation in the mail.

When does my ITIN expire?

Most often, you will receive a notice from the IRS that your ITIN is set to expire. An ITIN can expire for two reasons:

  • If you have not used the number to file taxes for 3 consecutive years
  • If it was issued before 2013, then it will be set to expire on a rolling basis depending on the middle two digits of your ITIN number

Batches of ITINs expire each year based on their age. You can identify whether your ITIN will be part of that rolling expiration by checking the middle two digits of the ITIN number (found between the dashes).

Unless they have been renewed, all ITINs issued prior to 2013 with the middle digits 88, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, and 99 expired on December 31, 2020, and must be renewed:

How do I apply for an ITIN?

Wondering how to get an ITIN number? If you don’t already have an ITIN, you can apply for one by submitting Form W-7 to the IRS with your tax return and additional filing requirement documentation. The IRS provides instructions to help you complete the form correctly.

You may also be able to apply for an ITIN by mail or fax.

How long does it take to get an ITIN?  

The IRS will send you a letter with your ITIN and supporting documents once they have processed your completed application. The ITIN and supporting documents are mailed to the address you provided on the application, and it should arrive within 7 weeks.

However, if you submit your ITIN request before tax season, you may be able to reduce the wait time.

Apply online

Knowing what an ITIN is and how it can work for you and your family can open new doors. However, ITIN application and renewal processes take time and diligence, but you don’t have to tackle ITIN renewal alone. Simply fill out this form to apply for an ITIN online right now.


Guy Lelouch
About the author
Guy Lelouch, founder and CEO of GovPlus, drives government digital transformation with his expertise in technology and public policy by creating efficient, transparent, and user-friendly services.

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