I moved from France to the United States of Amercia with my wife a couple of months ago. I'm on a J1 Visa, working for an University as a Research Scholar and my wife is on a J2 visa. She does not work, and we are both French citizens.
My situation was "easy" and common: I registered at the Foreign National Information System (FNIS), filled a SS-5 to get a Social Security Number (SSN), and then completed a W8-BEN and a form 8233 (certification for withholding exemption).
My wife's situation is more complex, as it seems. It seems that she needs a SSN or a ITIN to fill a W8-BEN or a W9. She can't apply for a SSN, as she does not work, so we filled a W7 form (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). It came back with a rejection letter:
We received your application for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) but have rejected it because you didn't provide an exception number or correct information in check box (h).
The aforementioned box contains
Additional information for a and f: Enter Treaty Country : … and treaty article number: …
As we are in the a case (Nonresident alien required to get ITIN to claim tax treaty benefit), we indicated in those fields respectively "France" and "Article #20 (J2-dependant)".
I called the IRS this morning, and I've been told that our application was rejected because we did not provide the original documents needed (among which, her passport), so that we had to come in person to one of the IRS office. The person I had on the phone did not seem really informed of our situation, and I'm really puzzled by the mismatch between his answer and what's written in the rejection letter.
Sorry for the long background, my question is: do we need her to fill a W8-BEN to please our French bank or to make a joint tax return? If so, how can we get a ITIN number for her?