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How to Get an ITIN Number as an H4 Visa Holder
H4 visa holders are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). So, they assume they cannot obtain an ITIN number either. But that’s not the case, and you can (and should) get an ITIN since the IRS requires you to file annual tax returns under the Internal Revenue Code. In this article, we’ll explain how H4 visa holders (those dependent on H1 visa holders) can get an ITIN.
What Is an ITIN?
ITIN stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Used by the IRS for filing a tax return, it is your unique tax processing number that helps the IRS identify you as a taxpayer.
Your ITIN is a 9-digit unique number that is only issued to U.S.-based individuals who are in possession of a U.S. taxpayer identification number but are, for whatever reason, not eligible for an SSN issued by Social Security Administration (SSA).
The primary application of the ITIN is to align citizens who do not have an SSN with the national tax laws and make it easier for them to pay taxes and be accountable for it. ITINs are issued irrespective of your immigration status since both resident and nonresident immigrants have IRS reporting requirements as described under the Internal Revenue Code.
To sum it up, you can apply for and get an ITIN if:
- You’re not eligible for an SSN and cannot obtain one for yourself.
- You have to file a federal tax return, and you belong to any of the following categories:
- Resident/non-resident aliens who have to file a tax return with the IRS.
- Non-resident alien claiming tax treaty benefits.
- Non-resident alien student, researcher, or professor filing tax returns with the IRS or claiming benefits.
Can an H4 Visa Holder Get an ITIN Number?
H4 visa holders need to file tax returns in the U.S. Just like regular citizens, they need to be compliant with tax laws. Now that you know why an H4 visa holder needs an ITIN, it’s important to understand what the ITIN cannot do for you. An ITIN does not:
- Authorize you to work in the U.S.
- Make you eligible for Social Security benefits.
- Qualify you, as a dependent, for Earned Income Tax Credit purposes.
How to Apply for an ITIN Number as an H4 Visa Holder
You need to apply for an ITIN as soon as you’re ready to file your federal income tax with the IRS. Obtaining an ITIN is straightforward, but you do need to follow the set of procedures laid out by the IRS. An application for an ITIN must include the following documents for successful processing:
This is the official form that needs to be filled out by anyone seeking their ITIN. You can find it on the IRS website, or click here to download form W-7.
Remember to use the most updated copy since there are revisions made now and then. As an H4 visa holder, it is important to mark the correct option available in the “Reason you’re submitting Form W-7” question. If you’re a spouse applying for an ITIN, then select “e. Spouse of resident alien.” If you’re a child, then select “d. Dependent of resident alien.”
Federal Income Tax Return Document
When applying for an ITIN, you need to supplement it with that year’s federal income tax return document. Form W-7 should be attached to the front of each tax document, which could include Form 1040, Form 1040A, and Form 1040EZ. There are exceptions if you are eligible for any waiver (you can refer to page 3 of Form W-7 to check your eligibility).
Since you’ll also be filing your tax return as an application for an ITIN, you shouldn’t mail the tax return documents separately to the addresses listed on Form 1040 or 1040A. Instead, send them to the address listed in the Form W-7 instructions.
Other Supporting Documents
Supporting documents are generally required to establish your identity and connection to your country of origin (foreign status). These also support the information contained in Form W-7. Some important documents you are asked to submit are:
This is accepted as proof of identity and nationality. This should be an original version and valid. If your passport is expired or you cannot provide it for any reason, then you can submit any two of the following 12 documents that will support your identity. One should be issued by the U.S. government, and the other can be by a foreign government:
- National ID card
- U.S. government-issued driver’s license
- Foreign/international driver’s license
- Foreign Voter ID card
- U.S. state ID card
- U.S. military ID card
- Foreign military ID card
- Visa issued by the USCIS
- Civil birth certificate
- Medical records
- School records
All of these documents should show photo, name, address, expiration date, and DOB.
Proof of U.S. Residency
If your passport does not have a date-of-entry on it, then it would be considered invalid. The exception includes aliens from Mexico, Canada, or dependents of military personnel serving overseas. So alternatively, you have to provide proof of residence in the U.S. For this particular purpose, you can use the following documents:
- U.S. medical records (for dependents under the age of 6)
- U.S. school records (for dependents under the age of 18)
- Mortgage statements, utility bills, or bank records (for anyone older than 18)
All of these should list the name of the applicant along with the address.
Certification of Supporting Documents (When Not Providing Original Documents)
Following the revision of rules in 2013, an H4 visa holder applicant needs to provide either original documents or certified copies. Notarized copies or apostilled ones are not accepted. You can get copies certified at the agency issuing the documents or a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Where to Apply for an ITIN
Once you’ve filled out Form W-7 and gathered all the necessary documents, you need to send it to the IRS. You have two ways of doing this.
First, you can send it via mail to the IRS office. The address can be found on the instruction page of Form W-7. Secondly, you can physically visit the office and submit all the documents in-person. This is considered safer since there is no risk associated with sending your original documents via mail, which can get lost, stolen, or destroyed.
There’s another approach, which is applying through a CAA or Certified Acceptance Agent. They generally streamline the application process for you for a fee. Click here to locate your nearest CAA.
ITIN Processing Time
The processing time for an ITIN, as stated by the IRS, is usually six weeks. It may take longer, especially during peak months like January and March. You should check the application status intermittently and contact the IRS if you haven’t heard from them after six weeks.
Expiration and Renewal of ITINs
ITINs that are not used for a period of three years in a row will expire. If you file taxes with your expired ITIN, the application will be processed, albeit delayed, and you won’t be eligible for exemptions or credits. You can file for ITIN renewal by submitting Form W-7 along with the supporting documents to the IRS.
If you’re an H4 visa holder, an ITIN will allow you to remain compliant with the tax laws of the U.S. It is necessary to have one, and you’ll be rewarded for it down the line.