Individuals who are not eligible to obtain a social security number may request an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. Included in that group are dependents of individuals with H, L, E, or J work authorization status, and B-1 or B-2 visitors, some of whom have work authorization. These individuals may submit a Tax ID application by mail using notarized copies of their passports. However, effective immediately, they must submit original documentation, such as passports and birth certificates, or copies of these documents certified by the issuing agency. For details of the new IRS requirements, please see: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=258477,00.html.
The challenge presented to applicants is the submission of their original passports to IRS. The processing time for a Tax ID number averages 60 days, which means that the applicant will be without his/her passport for a fairly long period of time, an uncomfortable scenario in the event of a need for urgent travel or to prove identity.
- Apply for the Tax ID number in person at a local IRS “Taxpayer Assistance Center”. We understand that some applicants have been able to apply for the ITIN in person at a Taxpayer Assistance Center, presenting an original passport for inspection without needing to mail it to the IRS. However, the IRS has not officially stated that it would continue to follow this process. To locate a Taxpayer Assistance Center, please use this link: http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html.
- Obtain a certified copy of the passport from the consulate office of your home country that is located within the U.S. IRS will accept a certified copy of the passport from the issuing agency. In other words, IRS will accept a certified copy of a passport from a Canadian consulate. We have spoken with a representative from a Canadian Consulate and were told it has have been receiving many requests to issue certified copy of passports.
- Obtain a certified copy of the passport in the home country before entering the US.
- “Second” passports. A handful of countries will issue a second passport, or a “travel passport”. In that case, even though the original passports was sent to IRS, the applicant will have an alternate passport in the event of any urgent international travel.
While this new IRS requirement will inconvenience many nonimmigrants, we hope this article has provided some helpful suggestions. For in-depth discussion of tax filing and related obligations in the U.S., we suggest consulting with a tax professional specializing in international tax issues.
An Arizona Twist
The controversial Arizona legislation, SB1070 required all non U.S. citizens to carry their identity and status documents at all times, and the failure to comply would result in a misdemeanor. Although US Immigration law has always required nonimmigrants to carry their identity and status documents in the US, SB1070 made failure to comply a state law crime. Fortunately, this provision was struck down by the US Supreme Court. Nonetheless, if an applicant for an ITIN has submitted an original passport to IRS, his/her identity and status documents will not be personally available.
Therefore, as a cautionary reminder, we suggest nonimmigrants to at least carry a clear and legible copy of their passport ID page and any status documents with them at all times, in case the request: “Papers please” is made.