Obtaining a non-working US social

My_question_is: US-specific
Subject:        Obtaining a non-working US social security number
Expert:         taxman at centa.com
Date:           Wednesday November 22, 2006
Time:           05:21 PM -0500
Q. Can a non-US person obtain a "non-working" social security number from
the US for certain professional licensing requirements? Is there such a
thing as a non-working SSN?
As background, I am a CPA living in Canada. I am trying to obtain a US SSN
so as to "preserve" my right to use the "CPA" accounting designation in
Canada.  I obtained my CPA certificate many years ago but was never
licensed.  I do not live or work in the US. I am not a US person. Under new
rules in many US states, the "CPA" designation can now only be used by
"licensed" accountants. However in order to get a license, the state (in
this case California) is asking for a SSN. Of course, I cannot get a SSN
because I am a non US person. Am I "skunked"? (in other words, out of luck).
Anxious in Ontario
david ingram replies:
Interestingly, I have a friend in Vancouver who has recently passed his CPA
exams and has a similar problem.  In BC, he has an extra problem in that the
Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC refuses to let anyone call
themselves a CPA in BC.  I had a lady working for me who was a CA, a CPA and
a UBC law graduate and a representative from the Institute showed up in my
office and made her take down her framed Oregon CPA Degree/certificate..
Thankfully, in this case, Ontario has better manners.
What you require is an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)
which is a non-working number obtained by those requiring a US tax
identification number.
The usual reasons for getting a number would be because you have a US bank
account, are trading stocks with a US broker, are the dependant or possible
dependant of a US person, or are filing a US 1040NR to report income earned
from a Canadian employer for services performed in the US for a Canadian
For instance, you, as a CPA could be asked to go down to the US to audit the
books of a subsidiary office.  When you crossed the border and told the nice
USCIS officer what you were doing, you would be awarded a "B1" status. No
actual visa is issued to Canadians as a rule.
When it came time to do your tax return, you would submit the return along
with an application for a number on form W-7.
You can find the form at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf
If this is particularly important to you, why not apply for and accept some
short term job in the USA and get a TN (Treaty NAFTA) visa. This would mean
you would qualify for a real SSN and get to fill out a SS-5 instead of the
The real number application follows:
A real number would also likely fit better into your goal of keeping your US
CPA membership.
Interestingly. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario will accept
a CPA as an equal if he or she comes from a State that recognizes the
Ontario CA designation.  At the moment 44 states recognize the Ontario
designation if you have passed the "International Uniform CPA Qualification
Examination". Missouri recognizes the designation without the exam. 8 do not
recognize the designation and Mississippi is up in the air at the moment.
California is one that does.  "SO", if you have your California CPA, you
should qualify for membership as an Ontario CA.
There are sometimes other exams and post degree educational requirements in
different states to maintain the certificate.
The list of states / territories that do not qualify are Arizona,
Connecticut, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Another method of getting a US ITIN is to go across the border and open a
bank account.  Most big banks are agents for the granting of the number and
you can do both at the same time. However, since Sept 11, 2001, they are
also leery of just opening up a bank account for a person without an
existing number and require a good reason to open the account in the first
Even Canadian individuals who have had their accounts for thirty years are
being asked to provide a good reason as to why the account should be
And don't forget, Be Alert!  the world needs more "LERTS".
David Ingram's US / Canada Services
US / Canada / Mexico tax, Immigration and working Visa Specialists
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Cell (604) 657-8451 -
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email to taxman at centa.com <mailto:taxman at centa.com>
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