I don’t have a Social Security number. How can I file a joint tax return with my U.S. citizen spouse?

I don't have a Social Security number. How can I file a joint tax return with my U.S. citizen spouse?

Question: My husband is a U.S. citizen. I came to the U.S. on a tourist visa a few months ago. We are getting ready to file my green card application. My husband is preparing our joint tax return, but I do not have a Social Security number. Can I file a tax return with my husband if I do not have a Social Security Number?

Answer: If you want to file a joint but your spouse is neither a U.S. citizen nor a U.S. tax resident, you must have either a Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). You do not need to have legal immigration status to obtain an ITIN.

What is an ITIN?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issues ITINs to the following individuals who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA):

  • Nonresident aliens who are required to file a U.S. tax return;
  • U.S. resident aliens who are filing a U.S. tax return;
  • Dependents or spouses of a U.S. citizen/resident alien;
  • Dependents or spouses of a nonresident alien visa holder; or
  • Nonresident alien student, professor or researcher filing a U.S. tax return or claiming an exception.

The IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security numbers. The IRS issues ITINS regardless of immigration status.

Besides filing taxes, what else can I use an ITIN for? 

ITINs do not serve any purpose other than federal tax reporting. An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S., provide eligibility for Social Security benefits, nor qualify a dependent for Earned Income Tax Credit Purposes.

How can I apply for an ITIN?

To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual. You may either mail the documentation, along with the Form W-7, to the address shown in the Form W-7 Instructions or deliver it at an IRS walk-in office. 

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