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After completing the W7 form, how long does it take to obtain the ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number) from the IRS?

Written By

Rachel Presser

Enrolled Agent & CFO, Himalaya Studios

Briefly Speaking

If you go with the W7 form, on the average, the ITIN application process takes 4-6 weeks to complete; longer if sent without a tax return and/or during the peak tax season January-April, where average processing is 8-10 weeks.
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ITINs can be a tricky matter in that there are several tax forms requiring a non-resident with US-sourced income to have one, yet applying for the ITIN itself requires a great deal of paperwork and can take a while to process.

The fastest and easiest way to obtain an ITIN is if you already have enough income and/or taxes withheld to merit filing a tax return, to go with the W7 form. This route takes about 4-6 weeks for processing off tax season; 8-10 weeks during peak tax season, January-April.

If you anticipate earning income and/or are aware of any tax treaty benefits that would either make you exempt from US taxation, subject to a lower tax rate, or subject to a lower withholding rate you can also file ahead of time by including the proper exemption form (Form 8233 for independent and dependent personal services) with the W7 form detailing how much you expect to earn for the given tax year, the reason you meet the tax treaty exemption, and the tax treaty and article number.

A worthy read would be IRS Publication 901, which gives basic overviews of the tax treaties the US has with other countries, so you can see if you qualify for any tax treaty benefits. The default withholding rate for US-sourced income to non-residents is 35%, Publication 901 dictates what types of income are taxed or withheld at a different rate; or exempt from US taxation altogether depending on your home country. Expanded versions of the tax treaties themselves can be found in most tax law and international relations databases.

Remember, if you have a spouse or dependents, they also will need ITINs in order to be claimed on your US tax return. Like with just one individual, it usually works the fastest to file a tax return and request ITINs for each person at the same time; although each person needs their own individual W7 form filled out and documentation attached.

Be aware that there will also be some slight financial setbacks in terms of obtaining the documents the IRS requests for yourself plus spouse and/or dependents. An apostille, a notarized copy of your passport signed by a US notary, usually is the best form of identification to use in that it states your identity and non-resident status. One usually has to go to an American embassy in a major city to obtain one.

I would strongly suggest using tracking/recorded delivery when mailing in a W7 form and corresponding documentation, and never send original documents as the IRS tends not to send them back. It may cost more than normal postage, but since you are sending time-sensitive information it is worth it to be able to track it.

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14 Reader Comments Share your thoughts.

    Alex 1 year ago
    Hi Rachel,
    What steps are necessary if I need to get back my original documents from IRS during 4-8 processing weeks, due to some urgent case? Let's say, may I come up to Austin, TX personally and ask them give it back to me or can I ask them send it back by phone?

    NNA 1 year ago
    I have sent my W7 form along with my passport by fedex on 2/20/13 and I havent heard anything from the IRS, I dont even know if they successfully received the documents, how can I find out if they have received them? can anyone help me.
    Michi Hamilton 1 year ago
    I sent in my W-7 with supporting documents and my 1040. How long will it take to get the refund? It is direct deposit ...they received it on 2/20/2013.
    Michi Hamilton 1 year ago
    I sent in my W-7 with supporting documents and my 1040. How long will it take to get the refund? It is direct deposit ...they received it on 2/20/2013.
    Susan Holtgrefe 2 years ago
    Good article. If you rightly nervous about sending your original documents then look for a Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA) in your area. Try Keyword 'certified acceptance agent' in the IRS search box. A CAA can provide a W-7 Certificate of Accuracy that you can attach to your return in lieu of the original documents.