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I am a J2 Dependent visa living in US for one year. My wife is studying at University (she has a J1).

I receive a W-8BEN form from the bank because they are withholding interest on my bank account. Interest is considered a form of income earn in US.

Now, I am not working in US and not intend to work and make an income while I am here. I am studying online.

I understand that in order to fill the W-8BEN form, i need to obtain an ITIN. However, if I am not intend to make any money while in US, can I not obtain an ITIN?

Is it legal if I don't get an ITIN and as such the bank withhold the interest on my account. The interest earn is so little anyways.

Thanks!

  • "I understand that in order to fill the W-8BEN form, i need to obtain an ITIN." What makes you think that? – user102008 Nov 30 '17 at 4:22
  • My wife has an H4 and she has an ITIN, specifically so we can file my taxes as 'married-filing-jointly'. She is specifically prohibited from making an income while here. I would think that you should have no trouble getting an ITIN in your situation. – brhans Nov 30 '17 at 12:10
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    Interest is unearned income. You are making money in the US, even though it is "so little," in the form of interest on your bank account. See the W-7 instructions to learn how to get an ITIN. See the W-8BEN instructions to learn about whether you are required to provide the ITIN on that form. – phoog Nov 30 '17 at 15:49
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While you are required to fill in the W-8BEN and provide it to the bank you don't necessarily need an ITIN to do that. You may require an ITIN to benefit from a tax treaty with your home country to reduce or eliminate the withholding tax the bank is taking (though sometimes providing your home country tax ID, if you have one, is sufficient), and you will need to get one if the bank insists that you have one.

How you might best proceed is to fill out the form with all the information you have (without the ITIN) and return it to the bank. If the bank insists that you provide an ITIN anyway get them to put that request in writing and include a copy of that with your W7 application for the ITIN.

If your wife ends up needing to file a US tax return you'll be getting an ITIN at that point anyway (you'll include the W7 application with the tax return if you still don't have one) and should be able to claim a refund for any withholding overpayment then. If you change your mind and decide to apply for employment authorization you'll apply for a SSN instead. Right now, though, you only need to do what is necessary to make the bank happy, and they may very well be happy with the W-8BEN without an ITIN.

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