The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) taxes based on citizenship and residency, requiring taxpayers to report their worldwide income to the IRS. In order to file a U.S. tax return, a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) must be issued.

U.S. citizens are required to file a federal tax return even if they do not reside in the U.S.. This rule applies even if they are residents of a foreign country, who have never visited the United States. Furthermore, U.S. citizenship can be acquired, for example: if either parent is a U.S. citizen, the child will be considered a U.S. citizen regardless of whether he or she has ever lived in the U.S.  All U.S. citizens are required to comply with the U.S. tax filing responsibility.

That being said, if the person is born in the U.S. a Social Security Number (SSN) is automatically issued. However, someone who is a U.S. citizen but residing outside the United States would need to apply for the SSN.  A U.S. citizen residing abroad cannot use an ITIN to file their U.S. tax return. An ITIN is for foreign citizens/residents who need to comply with U.S. taxes.

Note that, U.S. ITINs are subject to renewal.

The following is an overview of how a foreign residing U.S. citizen can obtain the U.S. Social Security Number (SSN).

 

Obtaining U.S. SSN As A Non-Resident U.S. Person

 

Applying for A U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) From A Foreign Country

As a U.S. citizen residing abroad, in order to obtain the U.S. Social Security Number (SSN), the person has to visit the U.S. embassy located in their country or a consular Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) serving that region. The appropriate FBU can be located on the Social Security Administration website.

The applicant process varies depending upon the age of the person.

Individuals above age 12 should schedule or have an appointment scheduled with the embassy official. This appointment may be scheduled over the phone or through an email. The person applying for the SSN needs to be physically present during the appointment.

A parent can apply on behalf of a child below age 12. In this case, no physical presence is required on behalf of the child. However, the parents need to provide substantial documents supporting their and the child’s identity.

 

Documents Required for Obtaining The U.S. SSN Abroad

In order to obtain an SSN, you must provide documents to prove 3 things:  Your citizenship, your age and your identity.

Citizenship

The Federal Benefits Units (FBUs) and the U.S. Embassy will only accept certain specific documents to validate U.S. Citizenship. These documents are as follows:

  • Certification of Report of Birth (DS-1350)
  • Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240),
  • Certificate of Citizenship (N-560/N-561),
  • Certificate of Naturalization (N-550/N-570).
  • US Passport.

Age

To validate age, the person must provide a foreign birth certificate.  If the person was born in the U.S., they must provide reason for the absence along with substantial documents as proof in case the person was not in the United States. The documentation must be comprehensive and dated from the time the person departed the U.S. to the present to provide sufficient evidence.

People, who are equal to or above age 12 must provide the following to prove a Social Security Number (SSN) was never assigned:

  • If they lived outside the United States for an extended period, a current or previous passport, school and/or employment records, and any other record that would show long-term residence outside the United States.
  • If they have lived in the United States, and they are applying for an original Social Security number, information about the schools attended, or copies of tax records that would show that they were never assigned a Social Security number.

For a person under 12 years of age, proof can include:

  • confirmation of residency from foreign registration offices
  • school records such as report cards or a letter from the school confirming dates of attendance
  • travel documents such as current or canceled passports (US or other)
  • employment records
  • medical records
  • proof of registration with a doctor or clinic

If in case a taxpayer is not sure whether or not they have an SSN issued in their name, they may check with the Federal Benefits Unit serving their area. The FBU will confirm whether or not an SSN was issued to the individual or not, based on the data provided.

Hwever, if an SSN has been assigned, the taxpayer will need to apply for a replacement card. The SSN will not be disclosed over the phone or via e-mail.

Identity

An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show the individual’s name, identifying information (date of birth or age) and preferably a recent photograph. For example, as proof of identity Social Security must see:

  • S. driver’s license;
  • State-issued non-driver identification card; or
  • S. passport.

If applying for a child’s SSN

Social Security can accept only certain documents as proof of a child’s identity. An acceptable document must show the child’s name, identifying information (i.e., age, date of birth, or parents’ names) and preferably a recent photograph preferably the child’s U.S. passport. If that document is not available, they may accept the child’s:

  • State-issued non-driver’s identification card;
  • Adoption decree;
  • Doctor, clinic or hospital record;
  • Religious record;
  • School daycare center record; or
  • School identification card.

The individual, also, needs to provide documents in support of their identity. (driver’s license or passport)

Duration To Obtain U.S. SSN

The processing time for these applications varies and is in part dependent on the response time from the Office of Vital Statistics, which holds the original birth registration. In cases where the client is within time constraints dictated by his/her financial institution, the FBU can issue a letter confirming that an application for an SSN has been duly submitted.

Nonetheless, it is highly recommended that if an individual is confused about the SSN application process or wishes to consult a U.S. tax expert first, he/she may reach out to a tax professional specializing in U.S. and the foreign country’s taxes.

 

AG TAX LLP CAN HELP

If you have any tax-related queries, need assistance with tax planning or filing your tax returns please contact us. Our team comprises of highly experienced tax professionals with extensive knowledge of US and Canadian tax laws as well as cross-border compliance.

Furthermore, as a full service accounting firm, AG Tax assures complete assistance with even your most complex tax needs.

We can assist with:

  • Canadian Personal and corporate tax returns
  • Cross Border Taxation and Business Planning
  • US Personal and Corporate Taxation
  • Disclosure of Foreign Assets and other information filings
  • Retirement planning
  • Estate Planning, Inheritance tax advice

To obtain a quote or to arrange for a tax consultation to discuss your US Canada cross border tax  queries, please contact us at:

  • 604-538-8735 (Greater Vancouver Area, BC)
  • 780-702-2732 (Greater Edmonton Area, AB)

Disclaimer: The information in this publication is accurate as of the time of its publication. AG Tax assumes no responsibility for changes to tax legislation subsequent to the publication of this document. The information provided is for general information purposes only and should not be acted upon without seeking professional advice. If you would like to engage our services, please contact our staff and obtain authorization to send our firm confidential information. A client relationship is not created by the transmission of information. A client relationship is only formed with our firm when a scope and engagement letter signed by the firm and the potential client detailing the terms of engagement is present.