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ITIN Numbers: A Complete Guide

ITIN numbers

Living in the United States as an immigrant means trying to navigate the confusing legal system. You can live here on a visa or apply for a green card, but those processes aren't guaranteed and can take years to process. 

If you can't obtain a green card, then you may end up living in the country as an undocumented immigrant. Some people falsely believe that if you're undocumented, then you don't pay taxes.

ITIN numbers were set in place to allow foreign nationals, nonresidents, and their dependents to report their taxes.

Here's your ITIN number guide and why you need to get one. 

What Are ITIN Numbers?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, is a number used by the IRS for tax reporting and processing. This number is issued to people who need to file tax returns but aren't eligible for a social security number. An ITIN takes the form of a nine-digit number in the same format as a SSN. 

A person who uses one is usually an undocumented immigrant studying or working in the United States. 

An ITIN is useful for more than just paying taxes, though. Some loans require an ITIN number to apply for them. Banks, postal services, and certain companies accept the number as a form of identification. 

Who Needs an ITIN?

If you're an undocumented worker, you probably wonder why you'd even need an ITIN. After all, the IRS isn't responsible for tracking down workers that aren't legal citizens. There's also the fear that applying for an ITIN number can make a person vulnerable to deportation. 

First of all, ITIN is handled by the IRS alone. They don't handle immigration, and taxpayer privacy laws keep all taxpayers protected, regardless of their legal status. As such, your information stays within their jurisdiction and doesn't go to other government agencies, outside of a criminal investigation. 

Undocumented immigrants are legally obligated to file taxes if they work. Doing so can help them later down the line if they plan to apply for U.S. citizenship. Students, researchers, and professors may also receive tax benefits.

One situation where a person would get an ITIN is for the H-44 visa. An H-4 visa is given to dependents of a visa holder to allow them to reunite in the United States. Even though they can't get a SSN, they still have to apply for an ITIN so they can file tax returns. 

Advantages and Limitations

A big challenge undocumented immigrants face is finding work. An undocumented citizen can't apply for unemployment, disability, or food stamps. If they can't work, then they're out of luck. 

Many immigrants opt for jobs that pay cash under the table since it lets the employer avoid their tax obligation and hire unauthorized workers. However, there's very little security in those positions. 

When you apply for a job in the U.S., some employers require an SSN or ITIN. This identification number is necessary for filing taxes and granting benefits like healthcare. 

An ITIN serves many purposes aside from helping with employment

You can use an ITIN to claim your spouse on a tax return. You can also claim dependent exemptions for your children. If you plan on obtaining legal status later on, your ITIN can help establish a wage record for Social Security benefits. 

However, there are some limitations in what an undocumented immigrant has access to, even if they have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. 

For one, you don't gain access to social security benefits food stamps or unemployment. Technically, an ITIN doesn't authorize you to work in the U.S., and earned income tax claims require a valid SSN. Furthermore, not all banks accept it as an ID document. 

ITIN Number Application Process

An ITIN number isn't something you can get by visiting your local federal office building. You need to apply for it with the correct documentation to prove your identity and foreign status. 

Here are some ITIN number tips and what to expect when applying. 

Documents Needed

You'll need your W-7, tax return, proof of identity, and foreign status documents when you apply for an ITIN number. 

The W-7 is the application form that is mailed with your federal income tax return. After you've received your number, you can file your tax return as otherwise directed. 

As an undocumented immigrant, a proof of identity counts as a driver license or some other kind of identification card. A passport, visa, and/or a foreign driver's license can act as proof of your foreign status. 

How to Apply

Your first option is to mail your ITIN number application and documents to the IRS. Alternatively, you can apply in-person with a Certifying Acceptance Agent expert who will guide you every step of the way. There's also the option to visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. 

If you're looking for a completely remote experience, you can get started with your ITIN application by reaching out to us. We have IRS Certified Acceptance Agents that provide skilled assistance. 

The application process is completely free if you do it on your own. However, it's important to seek out help if you're not sure what documents you need or how to fill them out. A certified agent can walk you through it, but they charge for the service.

Timeline

Assuming your application was accepted, you can expect to receive a letter from the IRS with your new ITIN number within seven weeks. During peak processing times, it may take as much as 10 weeks. 

If your application is rejected, you'll receive a notice informing you of the reason. You then have an opportunity to reapply. 

ITIN Number Application Services

Living as an undocumented immigrant is difficult enough in the United States as is. You want to work to pave the way to citizenship, but it's hard to find jobs without an SSN. ITIN numbers allow you to get access to certain jobs as well as pay taxes like any other citizen. 

Interested in applying for an ITIN number but have some questions? Freedom Immigration is here to help with all your immigration needs, from obtaining a green card to dealing with deportation. Contact us today to learn more. 

ITIN numbers