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The Internal Revenue Service issues an Individual Taxpayer Identification number, or ITIN. It is used for federal tax purposes to identify and process individual tax returns. It CANNOT be used for employment purposes. The foreign visitor will need to apply for a Social Security number if eligible for employment.
If the visitor does not have a social security number or is not eligible to apply for one, he needs to apply for an ITIN if receiving payments from the University. These payments include nonqualified (taxable) scholarship or fellowship awards, living expense payments, independent services, or honorariums.
To obtain an ITIN the foreign visitor must complete Form W-7, application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (pdf). The application for an ITIN can be made in person at the local Internal Revenue Service office and certain overseas IRS offices, or by mail from within the U.S. or abroad.
The Form W-7 has specific instructions on how to complete the form, documentation requirements, and how to apply by mail. If the nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher checks box f - Nonresident alien student, professor, or researcher filing a U.S. tax return, on the application form W-7, IRS will require a letter from the school stating that the person has neither a job offer pending nor has already secured employment. The nonresident alien can request the verification letter from either OHR Job Center at 170 Donhowe, or Payroll Services at 545 WBOB.
For more information on ITINs, IRS has provided general information in Publication 1915 - Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (pdf), and information on obtaining an ITIN from abroad.
The International Student and Scholar Services website also provides informaton on applying for an ITIN and the local IRS offices that accept applications.