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I want to obtain an ITIN number to get a credit card / open bank account in the US. I know, IRS does not issue this number unless for tax reporting purposes. I visit the US from time to time on a visitor visa and does not have any income there.

Can I just file a zero tax form 1040-NR-EZ along with W-7 and get the ITIN number legally this way?

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    have you talked to bank? There are ways to open account while being tax resident overseas – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Aug 23 '19 at 14:12
  • Will the bank account be connected with a US "trade or business"? If not, you would not owe tax on interest as an NRA, so the bank shouldn't need an ITIN for you. – nanoman Aug 23 '19 at 14:22
  • @aaaaaa, I have an account already and it's such pain without SSN/ITIN to use US banking in general, many features are not available. – MiloserdOFF Aug 23 '19 at 14:30
  • @nanoman, yet almost every bank asks it for identification purposes – MiloserdOFF Aug 23 '19 at 14:33
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Although the IRS permits filing a 1040 without having any U.S. taxable income, it is unnecessary to do so. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if you do not have a social security number (SSN) or ITIN, some banks will accept a government-issued ID number, such as a passport number and country of issuance, instead of a SSN or ITIN. According to Doctor of Credit, as of 2017, Citibank and PNC will allow you to open an account without a SSN or ITIN. Although some banks do require an ITIN in the absence of a SSN, some banks may accept a passport or foreign driver's license. Unfortunately, most of the major U.S. banks do require an ITIN or SSN to open an account, but do not let this discourage you from contacting banks that accept government-issued ID to open a checking account. If you are able to open a U.S. checking account and you earn interest income from your deposits, it might be tax-exempt as long as you are a nonresident alien and the interest income is not effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business.

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It seems like there are some exceptions where you can apply for an ITIN without a tax return: 1. you get third-party witholding on passive income, 2. a third party reports your mortgage interest 3. you're a member or owner of an LLC business, 4. you're exempt under the rules of Treasury Decision 9363 5. you've profited from the sale of property in the U.S. 6. you've collected salary, wages, honoraria payments or gambling winnings that are exempt due to a tax treaty. they still require documentation but it seems like you can apply without a federal tax returns if you meet any of these criteria

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