Introduction to ITINs
An ITIN is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. It is similar in format to a US Social Security Number (SSN), but usually starts with a 9 and is specifically meant for an individual who is not eligible for a SSN. ITINs are most beneficial when filing a US tax return or opening a US bank account. They do not allow for any Social Security type financial benefits from the US government, they will not change your immigration status and they do not grant you the right to work in the US.
Can I apply for an ITIN?
Do ITINs expire?
How do I apply?
Option 1 In Person with the IRS:
If you are physically in the US, you can apply in-person at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). You would make an appointment in advance and meet with an IRS agent. You are required to provide proof of foreign status and identity, most commonly by providing your original passport. The IRS would verify that the documents are valid and return them to you during the meeting. The IRS agent would then take your ITIN application and supporting documents and submit them for processing. Overall, this is a fairly simple and cost-efficient option as long as you are planning on spending a few days in the US.
Option 2 with a Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA):
A CAA is someone that has been certified by the IRS to act as an agent for ITIN applications. The CAA is also required to review your physical original passport or birth certificate and they will immediately return those documents to you at the end of the interview. A CAA is able to interview you either in person or via a video chat. CAA’s are located throughout the world which can also provide much needed flexibility. CAAs do typically charge a fee for this service so it is likely the most expensive option, but well worth the extra cost for the time savings and ease of use.
Option 3 via mailing Certified Copies:
You can include Certified Copies of your Passport and mail your ITIN application directly to the IRS. The Certified Copies must be provided by either your Passport issuing authority or by the US Embassy or Consulate located in your home country. The IRS will not accept notarized copies, so be sure that the right agency is providing the Certified Copy. If this is the option that you choose, then I always recommend that you request 2 or more Copies, just in case the first application is not processed correctly. Depending on your home country and the ease of dealing with the Passport issuing authority, this can be a great mid-cost alternative.
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