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, you can find the W-7 Form on the IRS website with instructions. In addition to submitting the W-7, you will need original documents or certified copies of your documents from an issuing agency to prove immigration status and identity. 

According to the IRS, W-7 applications take approximately 6-8 weeks to process. For students and scholars who are required to file an income tax return, it is possible to send your ITIN application along with your income tax return. 

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

  • Complete the form W-7. For instructions, go to the IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. You may choose to pay a fee to use a tax preparation website/software that prepares nonresident tax returns to complete this form. If applicable, you should write one of the following on Line H:
    • Exception 2b – Scholarships, fellowships or grants claiming tax treaty benefits (Below box h after “Additional Information“, enter the name of the treaty country and treaty article number – see Tax Treaty Tables) OR 
    • Exception 2c – Scholarships, fellowships or grants not claiming tax treaty benefits
  • Verification of your immigration status and identity - See options described in Step 2
  • Letter from a Designated School Official/Responsible Officer (DSO/RO) - Described in Step 3
  • Copy of your supporting documents (ex. passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 print out, and visa stamp)
  • Scholarship, fellowship, or grant letter on UMN letterhead (if applicable)
  • U.S. federal income tax return documents (if applicable)

Step 2. Options for Verifying Immigration Documents and Identification

You must submit original documents or verify your immigration documents with one of the below options to support the information provided on Form W-7. There are two ways you can do this.

Option 1: 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 immigraiton status. Call 844-545-5640 to make an appointment.

Doing this will mean you do not need to mail your original identity and immigration documents to the IRS (Option 3).

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:  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 3. 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 7 business days.

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

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.

Last updated: July 26, 2021