Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

Individuals who do not have or are ineligible to receive a Social Security Number may be eligible to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file income tax forms, claim a tax treaty on academic funding, or use for some other specific legal purpose.

For more information on ITINs, the IRS has provided general information in Publication 1915 - Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, (W-7 form) and information on obtaining an ITIN from abroad.

ITIN numbers cannot be used for employment. Employment in the United States requires a Social Security Number.

If you are not certain if you need to file an ITIN application, you can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help you determine if you should qualify.

How do I apply for an ITIN Number? 

If you need to apply for an ITIN number, NRVTAP (Nonresident Volunteer Tax Assistance Program, a UMN student organization) provides free support to assist you with this process. NRVTAP can answer general ITIN questions, help you determine if you are eligible for an ITIN, and assist you with completing the ITIN application. To contact them for assistance, please email [email protected].

The IRS states ITIN applications take approximately 6-8 weeks to process. There is a large backlog at the IRS, however, due to the pandemic, and this has resulted in some applications taking up to up to 6 months to be processed.

Generally, you must file an ITIN application along with an income tax return. Some students and scholars may qualify for an exception and be able to apply for an ITIN before they file their income tax return. You should not file an ITIN application unless you are likely to receive your ITIN before your tax return will be due, as you will need to wait to receive it before filing your  tax return once you have applied for an ITIN. Generally, NRVTAP recommends you should wait and file your ITIN application with your tax return that you have not already submitted an application by the end of November.

Below are the steps to apply for an ITIN, including multiple options to meet the requirement to provide proof of immigration status and identity with your W-7 Form.

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Step 1. Gather Application Documents

  1. Complete the form W-7 Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). There are three options for how you can complete this form:
    • Option 1: NRVTAP will prepare this form for you if you are working with them to prepare your ITIN application.
    • Option 2: You can choose to pay a fee to use a tax preparation website/software that prepares nonresident tax returns.   
    • Option 3: You can prepare this form yourself (for instructions, review the W-7 Form on the IRS website).
  2. Request a letter from a Designated School Official/Responsible Officer (DSO/RO) - Described in Step 2
  3. Verify immigration status and identity - See options described in Step 3
  4. Copy all of your supporting documents (ex. passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 print out, and visa stamp)
  5. (If applicable) Copy all of your scholarship, fellowship, or grant letter(s) on UMN letterhead
  6. (If applicable) Complete your U.S. federal income tax return documents

Please note: For general ITIN questions or help to complete the ITIN application, please email [email protected].

Step 2. Obtain a Designated School Official/Responsible Officer (DSO/RO) Letter from ISSS

You can request to obtain a Designated School Official (DSO/RO) letter by filling out the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) online request form through MyISSS. The DSO/RO letter is a letter provided by ISSS that confirms your visa status and states that you are not employed in the U.S. or receiving any type of income from personal services. Once submitted, your DSO/RO letter will be processed in 2–3 business days.

To obtain a DSO/RO Letter, use the appropriate link to submit your request through MyISSS:

Step 3. Options for Verifying Immigration Documents and Identification

You must either submit original documents or submit copies that have been verified by a certifying acceptance agent. There are four options for you to complete this step.

Option 1: Contact NRVTAP (Nonresident Volunteer Tax Assistance Program) to obtain free assistance with your ITIN application, including verification of your identity and immigration documents.

Students/scholars should email [email protected] for free assistance with an ITIN application. As a part of this process, NRVTAP will assist you with obtaining verified copies of your identity and immigration status documents.

Option 2: Verify your immigration documents through an IRS-authorized Certifying Acceptance Agent*

You can hire a CAA to verify your identity and documents to send along with your W-7 application. A fee is common for this service.

*The IRS Certifying Acceptance Agent website includes CAA and Acceptance Agents (AA). The Acceptance Agents have asterisks next to their name while CAA do not. For the purposes of your ITIN application, you only need a CAA, not a AA. 

What is an IRS Certified Acceptance Agent?

An IRS-certified acceptance agent is not a person who works for the IRS. They are authorized by the IRS to assist individuals who need an ITIN and do not qualify for an SSN. CAAs facilitate the application process by reviewing documents, authenticating identity, and forwarding completed forms to the IRS. 

Option 3:  Make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center

Students/scholars can make an appointment with an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center to verify their identity and immigration status. Call 844-545-5640 to make an appointment. 

Option 4:  Mail your documents to the IRS to verify them

It can be risky to send your original immigration documents into the IRS through the U.S. mail. You should look at alternate options (such as going to a CAA) if you will need your original immigration documents for any purpose within 60 days of submitting your ITIN application. For specific instructions on how to mail documents to the IRS, visit the IRS Website: How to apply for an ITIN?

Step 4. Submit Application

Once you have gathered all of your documents, you can mail your application to the IRS. Review the IRS Publication 1915 for specific mailing instructions.

Please note:  It is strongly recommended that you use USPS Priority Mail or another delivery service (UPS/Fed-Ex/etc.) that can provide tracking information to document when your ITIN application was delivered to the IRS. 

Last updated: September 26, 2023