U.S.citizens and green card permanent residents can obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) for use in connection with filing tax returns and other identity related matters.  Non-resident aliens (NRAs) or resident aliens whose residency is based on the substantial presence test (based on number of days present inU.S.over a three-year period) are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number.  Instead such individuals may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).  These numbers always begin with the number 9.

Obtaining an ITIN involves submitting Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number with certain specified documentation of foreign status and identity.  Formerly, the specified documents could be submitted in the form of locally notarized copies of the original documents, most commonly the requesting individual’s passport, the notary certifying it o be a true copy of the original or foreign document in the form of an apostille.

Now IRS has decided to tighten the identity verification rules.  No longer will certified copies of original documents be acceptable.  Under Interim rules to be finalized before the 2013 tax filing season, individuals must now submit their original documents or certified copies of original documents.  One cannot walk-in and display for inspection the documents to an IRS official.  The documents must be left in the custody of IRS and “will be forwarded to an ITIN centralized site for processing.”(IRS News Release IR-2012-62, June 22, 2012).  The commonly known translation for the quoted phrase is “Expect to never see your documents again.”  In fact, present Form W-7 instructions warn: “To avoid any loss of your documents, it is suggested that you do not submit the original documentation.”

Thus, it probably is unwise for NRAs to submit an original passport unless they want to have difficulty returning to their home country.  Apart from one’s passport, other current original or certified documents (must show expiration date unless issued within 12 months of application if no expiration date is normally included on document) that may be submitted include:

  • National ID card showing photo, name, current address, date of birth and expiration date.
  • U.S.driver’s license.
  • Civil birth certificate(must submit for dependents under 18)
  • Foreign driver’s license.
  • U.S.state ID card.
  • U.S.military ID card.
  • Foreign military ID card.
  • Visa.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) photo ID.
  • Medical records (only for dependents under age 14, or age 18, if a student).
  • School records for dependents under age 14 or age 18, if a student.

 If a passport is not submitted, two of the other listed documents must be provided.  Thus, applicants will have to determine which original documents they are willing to part with or for which certified copies and/ or an apostille can be obtained.  Moreover, it can take six weeks or longer to obtain an ITIN (longer in peak periods).  Thus, one may have to do without the ID document for a while and longer if it is lost.

 Most ITINs are issued to NRAs who must file return to or obtain an ITIN for a spouse or dependent child in connection with filing return.  These applicants will have to follow the new procedures and deal with the dilemma of submitting important documents that are difficult to replace, if lost, or become unavailable for a time, while IRS delays its verification process.

 Some applicants need not supply original documents and may continue to follow the old rules contained in the Form W-7 instructions (supplying notarized copies).  These include:

  • Military spouses and dependents without an SSN.
  • NRAs applying for treaty benefits
  • Those applying because they are subject toU.S.withholding of tax at source on various kinds of income (rents, royalties, dividends, interest, etc.), or,
  • Need an ITIN for other reporting purposes.

 I am not at all sure that IRS realizes the problems these new rules will engender.  I doubt many will want to submit a passport or other original important documents and may find difficult obtaining certified copies of two documents. 

 © 2012 by Robert S. Steinberg, Esquire
All rights reserved

This entry was posted in COMPLIANCE, TAX and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. americandream says:

    I am a US citizen, married to a foreign resident. I work full time, and he’s a stay at home dad. This year, we filed a joint tax return. The catch is that even though he didn’t have any income, he still needs an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in order for our return to be processed. They want us to send in his passport, or his driver’s license and foriegn birth certificate, or something equally preposterous to do without for 60+ days (assuming it isn’t lost)! I’ve looked into the requirements and process for replacing some of these documents, and difficult doesn’t even BEGIN to explain it!! Not to mention the time it would take to get them. Silly me–I assumed that as a working US Citizen, I would be entitled to actually receiving the tax refund that I’m due this year! Apparently, my only mistake was falling in love with someone who was born in another country–he can’t help where he was born, and I’m still not sure why it’s such a problem. My ancestors came here on a boat, too–I guess they were just lucky to arrive before everyone “came to their senses” and decided that “immigration” was an issue, even though this country was founded by immigrants,

  2. Shravan says:

    Submitted my wife’s passport for her ITIN applicaion and federal returns, IRS says they didnt receive passport but received only application and federal returns forms. I’m sure I included original passport in the envelope, along with prepaid express mail envelope for passport return. Application is suspended now saying identifyin documentation is needed. Not sure what to do now.

    • You will likely have to replace your wife’s passport as you would if it were otherwise lost. This is precisely why everyone dislikes the new requirements for obtaining an ITIN. The IRS FAQS provide, in part:

      1. The IRS suopposedly has a process in place to ensure that documents are returned to applicants. The original and certified documents shoulb be returned to applicants using the mailing address on the application via postage paid standard U.S. mail within 60 days of receipt and processing of the Form W-7.

      2. If original documents are not returned within 65 days of mailing to the IRS, allowing 5 days for postal mail receipt, you may call 1-800-908-9982 (U.S. only) or for international, call 1-267-941-1000 (this is not a toll free number).

      3. In lieu of sending original documentation, applicants will have the option to use a CAA, designated TAC locations and the IRS Tax Attaché at the U.S. embassies in Beijing, Frankfurt, London, or Paris. This is limited to primary and secondary applicants. Applications for dependents will still require that originals or certified copies from the issuing agency be mailed to IRS.

      4. Applicants may be able to request a certified copy of documents at an embassy or consulate. However, services may vary between countries, so IRS recommends that applicants contact the appropriate consulate or embassy for specific information. If the consulate or embassy wants to know why one needs the certified copy refer them to or download and provide to them the requirements stated on the website.

      5. If one must send original documents and cannot deliver them by hand and obtain a receipt, send them with a cover letter and duplicate cover letter to be stamped as received and returned in a pre-paid postage return address envelope.


      • anil kumar pugalia says:

        Hi , I sumbitted my daugher’s Original Passport to local IRS office to issue ITAN no.IRS office at TX issued ITIN no in March first week but we haven’t received the original passport yet. We are calling IRS @ 1800 908 9982 from last 2 months evey week but they keep on saying that they sent it to the old address.. i dont know why as i had provided my current adddress in the W7 form.Upon my request they changed the mailing address to my new address and they have mailed it on 16 th April but til now i havent recievd the passport.. i think they have lost my daughters passport and just playing around wid me.. pls suggest what should i do further as my daughters visa is expiring in jan 2014 and needs to be actioned asap…. need ur suggestion

    • These growing stories of disaster are leading me to consider with what one person suggested: Scoundrels are targeting mailings addressed to U.S. agencies like IRS that receive or transmit passports. A U.S. passport is very valuable. On the other hand, it could be that IRS is just totally screwed up should not be trusted with such an important document. Hopefully, congress or the Secretary of Treasury will force IRS to revisit the wisdom of this requirement that has been widely criticized. The alternative is to file as one “married filing separately” which is highly disadvantageous. If forced to submit a passport I would use a delivery service and have IRS sign an acknowlegment of receipt of the application and passport. Of course, they can still lose it in the morass of IRS documentation.

  3. Aravindhan says:

    Hello there, I have been stuck in the scenario which you anticipated. I had sent my dependent’s passports in February, and have received their ITIN numbers in March, but we are still waiting for their passports. Its has been 3 months now.
    After multiple calls to Customer service, i received a mail yesterday stating that they had sent our passports in March!. This is May, and i have not received it yet.

    How can they send our passports in ordinary mail, which cannot be tracked? If they mentioned that, i could send a return envelope, with prepaid postage for tracking I would have happily done so.
    Now, IRS is saying USPS lost it, and USPS saying IRS would not have sent that at the first place.

    Can i sue IRS for loosing our passports?

  4. Murali says:

    Same as Anil Kumar’s case! After 5 referrals and 3 months of follow up we got an answer saying the passport was mailed to old address. We were asking the USPS Mail Class they use to return the document and tracking number. They don’t have an answer! The support people can’t do much other than sending referrals and they don’t have any clue on the where abouts of the document. Even to get an answer for the question; when was the original documents mailed?, we had to go through Tax payers advocate with IRS. The answer (after 3 months) was April 15th and the ITIN was issue on April 22nd. The mail forwarding to my new address worked for ITIN (twice – received a copy after change of address) but not for the original document return! Raised another referral to check the return pile… Our hopes of tracking it down is diminishing day by day. Our visa is expiring in Nov 2013 so its time for replacement document I guess…

  5. With the list of lost document instances growing, it is unwise to submit original documents to IRS. Eitther obtain certified copies of the originals, albiet sometimes difficult to procure, or go to a Certified Acceptance Agent in the U.S. who is authorized by IRS to review and certify your original documents. These alternatives obviate the necessity to submit original documents that are difficult to have replaced. As for your present predicament, you are correct in surmising that replacement documents will have to be requested.

    • Aravindhan Thirukonda says:

      If IRS is asking for original documents, then they should be held responsible for returning those. How can such an organization make such mistakes so often? Aren’t they learning anything from such cases popping up once everyday?

  6. Murali says:

    The process of getting “certified copies” also involves sending the original passport to the issuing agency which means again risk of loosing it in transit. From my experience, you risk it to get certified copies than sending the IRS. The CAAs can help for primary/secondary applicants and not for dependents. IRS still needs either original or certified copies for dependents. At the time of my filing, neither there was clear process for getting “certified copies” nor finding any CAAs (not so popular i guess because everyone was sending notarized copies than using CAAs).

  7. Murali says:

    Did any one got their passport back from IRS? If yes I like to know the Mail Class. The IRS site says the original document will be returned through “postage paid standard US mail”. Isn’t this class of mail used for magazines, advertisements, credit card offers, pre-approved loans, etc? I understand bulk mail will save IRS couple of cents but still I can’t believe IRS choose to return the original documents in that class of mail. So I am hopping that they send with some class of mail with tracking ability. I like to hear from people who received their original document.

  8. Juan says:

    they recently lost my original documents for my 2 depends, tax return w/w7 sent on April 2016, today September, they told me they sent 1 set of original at the end of may 2016, didnt get anything, but the copy of ITIn #, Did a referral, they say they send them, but that is not true.

    • Juan,
      I’m sorry to hear of your trouble that many others have experienced. You might want to contact the National Taxpayer Advocate’s office to inform them. Unfortunately, if the documents have been lost and not merely misplaced within IRS, there is nothing the Advocate can do but seek change in IRS procedures to ease up on these rules that require sending original documents.

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