August 2, 2015

Applying for a U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

U.S. Taxpayer Identification Number

Your visa documentation determines whether or not you are permitted to work/accept payments in the US. A Social Security number is available to all residents and nonresidents that are permitted to work in the US. If the individual is not permitted to work in the US an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) may be applied for.  Payments for services to Foreign Nationals without either a Social Security Number or ITIN are subject to 30% tax withholding and reporting.

Some scholarships/fellowships are also subject to 30% tax withholding and reporting.   An exception to that rule is a taxable scholarship/fellowship paid to a nonresident in F,J, M or Q immigration status which would be subject to 14% tax withholding and reporting.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

An ITIN is an Individual Tax Payer Identification Number issued by the U.S. Internal  Revenue Service (IRS) used for tax reporting.   If you are a Foreign National Student receiving a qualified scholarship, an ITIN is not needed.  There will not be any taxes withheld from your award, therefor no tax reporting.

Reasons Foreign National Students may want to apply for an ITIN:

  • You may be entitled to Treaty Benefits which could reduce the withholding of tax on your scholarship under an income tax treaty. See Publication 515, Withholding of Tax on Nonresident Aliens and Foreign Entities at  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p515.pdf.  Qualifying for Treaty Benefits is determined by you current visa and immigration history you enter into FNIS.   The Financial Service Administrator will advise you if you are eligible for Treaty Benefits and if applying for an ITIN is necessary.
  • The other reason a Foreign National Student might want to request an ITIN would be if he/she intends to file a U.S. tax return to claim a refund. In this case, the IRS Form W-7 Application for IRS ITIN must be sent with the tax return.  The filing of a U.S. tax returns is usually done during the first quarter of the next calendar year.

Social Security Number

If you are permitted to work in the U.S. a Social Security number is generally a requirement.  The application for the number will be provided upon completion of FNIS, the online Foreign National Information System form.  More information on FNIS can be found at http://www.mbl.edu/foreign-nationals/tax-and-withholding/fnis-instructions.  After you arrive at the MBL and meet with the Financial Services Administrator you will be advised what documents are necessary and how to proceed.  The local Social Security Administration office is in Falmouth at the Technology Park, 48 Research Road, East Falmouth, MA 02536, 508-548-8150. (North on Route 28 to Thomas B. Landers Rd.; Turn right; Turn right again on Research Road.)

Contact Information:
Kate Ahern-Wolseley
Financial Services Administrator
Marine Biological Laboratory
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543-1015

Office Location: Homestead 212
Phone: (508) 289-7275
Fax: (508) 289-7931
E-mail: fnational@mbl.edu