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Tax Identification Number (TIN)

What is a Tax Identification Number (TIN)?

  1. A Tax Identification Number (TIN) is a number created for tax purposes. It is similar to a social security number in that it is a unique identifier for the IRS that allows a person to comply with U.S. tax laws.
  2. A TIN is not a social security number though it is a nine digit number that looks similar to a SSN. A TIN always begins with the number 9.
  3. Many immigrants who are not eligible for a SSN use a TIN to pay taxes in the U.S.
  4. A TIN does not confer any immigration status or authority to accept employment legally in the U.S.
  5. A TIN will not make you eligible for all tax benefits or public benefits that U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents are.

What other purposes can an ITIN serve?

• Opening an interest-bearing bank account.

• Securing a driver’s license. Some states have allowed the ITIN to be used instead of a SSN in order to receive a driver’s license, driver’s permit, or state identification card.

• Providing proof of residency. At some point in the future, an immigrant may need to prove how long he or she has been in the United States and having a tax return filed using an ITIN is one way to show that.

Risks of Getting a TIN?

  • The Government does not use TIN to track immigrants or to enforce immigration law.
  • Tax information is private and the Government will not easily allow law enforcement to access that information.

How does one apply for an ITIN?

Applicants must fill out a W-7 application form and submit it to the IRS along with a completed tax return. You will be required to submit documents to the IRS verifying identity and “foreign status.” The IRS has issued a list of 13 documents that will be accepted for this purpose.

Applicants may apply by mail or private delivery service and do not need to appear in person. However,
if they apply in this manner, they are required to send original documents (or certified copies of original
documents) to the IRS and wait for the agency to return those documents.

Applicants may apply in person at a Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) which is staffed by individuals who
also are authorized by the IRS to authenticate the applicant’s documents. Applicants who apply at a TAC
also will be able to retain their original documents.

If a person obtains an ITIN but does not include it on a federal tax return for three consecutive years, it will expire and will need to be revalidated.

See the IRS instructions online here.

Acceptable Supporting Documents

Supporting DocumentationCan be used to establish:
Foreign statusIdentity
Passport (the only stand-alone document*)xx
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identificationxx
Visa issued by the U.S. Department of Statexx
U.S. driver’s license x
U.S. military identification card x
Foreign driver’s license x
Foreign military identification cardxx
National identification card (must contain name, photograph, address, date of birth, and expiration date)xx
U.S. state identification card x
Foreign voter’s registration cardxx
Civil birth certificatex**x
Medical records (valid only for dependents under age 6)x**x
School records (valid only for a dependent under age 18, if a student)x**x
* Applicants claimed as dependents who need to prove U.S. residency must provide additional original documentation if the passport doesn’t have a date of entry into the United States. See Proof of U.S. residency for applicants who are dependents below.
** May be used to establish foreign status only if documents are foreign.