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 return and you don’t have or 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. 

You will usually file an application for an ITIN with your first tax return, which you must file as a paper return, not electronically. There are some exceptions, when you may be able 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.

Apply for an ITIN

The application — IRS 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) 
  • Support your claim of foreign status

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

Types: The IRS has a long list of possible documents or combinations of documents that can prove status and identity. All are listed in the 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. 

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, other than mail.

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
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) participants

Each of these groups has specific requirements to qualify. See – 2013 ITIN FAQ’s.

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 Document Review Taxpayer Assistance Centers is available on 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 regular 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 still have to send original or certified copies of the documents to the IRS for all dependents. 

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 W-7 and your tax return to the address under Where to Apply in the W-7 instructions.

If you use the United States Postal Service:

Internal Revenue Service
ITIN Operation P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342 (using U.S. Postal Service)

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

DO NOT send your application to the address listed on the tax return.

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

Be sure to read all the instructions on Form W-7. Certain forms of identification documents have very specific requirements about what they must include (for example, school records and medical records). If your documents don’t meet all of these requirements, even if they’re your actual 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 contact the U.S. Tax Attachés in Frankfurt, London, or Paris. 

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

The right to be informed. If your application is suspended (put on hold) or rejected, you should ask for the reasons why. 

The right to challenge and be heard. If your ITIN application is suspended, you can submit additional documentation proving your identity or income, which requires you to file a return.

The right to quality service. If the IRS employee you’re speaking to can’t provide information about your ITIN application, you can ask to speak to a manager or be referred to the ITIN unit.

The right to a fair and just tax system. If the IRS hasn’t addressed your issue properly or timely, for example if your original documents are lost or not returned timely, you can seek assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

Have a different tax issue?  Browse common issues and situations at Get Help.

Is your tax problem more complex?  If your issue is causing you financial hardship, you have tried repeatedly and are not receiving a response from the IRS, or you feel your taxpayer rights are being violated, consider contacting TAS.

Do you feel that you need help from a tax professional but can’t afford one? You may be eligible for representation from an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent associated with a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Last modified July 5, 2016