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I'm a resident alien in the US. I got married with another resident alien in California in 2018. She is not eligible for a social security number, so she needs to apply for an ITIN so that I can add her to my tax return as a dependent.

Can we apply for the ITIN now before filing the 2018 tax return (in 2019) to gain some time?

Applying for an ITIN requires a copy of the tax return in which my wife is claimed as a dependent, which we don't have. So I guess the answer is "no".

If we apply for the ITIN in person, do we need a certified copy of the documents, or showing the originals suffices?

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You'll apply for an ITIN at the same time you file your 2018 tax return, not before or after.

Fill out your tax return just as you would if she had an SSN/ITIN, but you'll leave that field blank and you'll attach Form W7 to your return, which is the application for ITIN. This means mailing in a paper return.

Also, your spouse is not a dependent, but filing status of "Married Filing Jointly" will increase your standard deduction and change your tax brackets.

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