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ITIN For Illegal Immigrants: Why You Need One

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is a unique 9-digit identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It works as a form of identification for immigrants who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number. 

An ITIN is necessary for undocumented immigrants in the United States because it helps them to file taxes and seek other services such as financial aid, enroll in health insurance plans, open bank accounts, or serve as proof of residency.

ITINs Don’t Give You Legal Status or Work Authorization

Knowing that an ITIN does not give you legal status or work authorization is essential. It simply helps you comply with IRS regulations. You will still need a valid visa, work permit or green card to work legally and stay in the country. 

Reasons You Need an ITIN

Having an ITIN can be beneficial for undocumented immigrants in several ways. Here are four reasons you should consider getting one:

It Enables You to Pay Taxes

All immigrants are required to file taxes, regardless of their status. Having an ITIN allows you to do this without risking detection.

It Permits You to Open a Bank Account

Many banks and financial institutions require an ITIN before approving your application.

It can also help you to seek financial aid.  Many forms of financial aid, such as government funding and grants, require an ITIN to be eligible.

It Gives You the Ability to Enroll in Health Insurance Plans

Many health coverage providers require an ITIN before signing up for specific health insurance plans. Most providers focus more on you being able to prove your residency than your SSN.

How Do I Get One?

Getting an ITIN is relatively simple. Complete the IRS Form W-7 and submit it along with supporting documentation, such as a passport or other form of valid identification.

You’ll need to verify your identity and foreign status. The IRS lets you choose between 13 documents that can work to make the process easier.

Let’s look at the various ways you can apply:

  • Mail service
  • In person at a Taxpayer Assistance Center
  • Through an Acceptance Agent
  • Through a Certifying Acceptance Agent

Mail Service

Applicants can apply through mail or private delivery service, eliminating the need for in-person visits.

Taxpayer Assistance Center

If you prefer to apply in person at a Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), you can keep the original copies, as the staff can authenticate documents in person.

Acceptance Agent

Applicants who need assistance with their application can utilize the help of an Acceptance Agent (AA). An AA has IRS authorization to help the applicant through the process. Once complete and the W-7 gets filed, the AA sends the original documents to the IRS.

Certifying Acceptance Agent

Lastly, the applicant can enlist the help of a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA). A CAA is similar to an AA in that it helps applicants complete the W-7 form and submit it. But a CAA has the added benefit of authenticating the documents. 

In other words, a CAA can verify that the document is authentic and government-issued, allowing the applicant to keep their original documents.

The application process can take up to 7 weeks, so patience is essential. Upon approval by the IRS, the applicant will receive the ITIN through their local mail service. To avoid having to revalidate the application, include the ITIN on your federal tax return. If you forget to include it for three years straight, it expires.

Can I Use One for Taxes?

tax return paper work

You can use an ITIN can to file your taxes. It is one of the primary reasons why an ITIN is so crucial for undocumented immigrants. It allows them to file taxes without risking detection.

Do I Need to Have My Taxes Filed to Get a Green Card?

No, filing your taxes is not legally required to get a green card. However, depending on the nature of your immigration case, it can help a lot. Filing your taxes is often seen as evidence that you are financially responsible and have contributed to the US economy. It can increase your chances of getting approved for a green card on a discretionary basis.

Can an ITIN Be Used to Track Undocumented Immigrants?

The government cannot use ITINs to track undocumented immigrants. Nor does the IRS share applicants’ private information as part of remaining compliant.

The program’s success rests on its ability to keep its customers’ information safe. According to Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, the IRS only has the authorization to share taxpayer information with the Treasury Department for the sole purpose of investigations related to tax administration.

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