I need to apply for an ITIN from the IRS. I have a passport. Do I need to send the passport itself or can I make a copy and send the copy?
According to the W-7 instructions, you must send the original document or a certified copy.
A certified copy can usually be provided by the same agency that created it or some embassies and consulates can make or help you obtain certified copies. A notarized copy will not be accepted.
All quoted material is from the W-7 instructions.
You must submit original documents, or certified copies of these documents from the issuing agency, that support the information provided on Form W-7. A certified document is one that the original issuing agency provides and certifies as an exact copy of the original document and contains an official stamped seal from the agency. You may be able to request a certified copy of documents at an embassy or consulate. However, services may vary between countries, so it is recommended that you contact the appropriate consulate or embassy for specific information.
There is a discrepancy in the instructions. Under the section for renewing an ITIN (if you don't use it for 5 years, it expires as of March 2018; prior, it was 3 years), there's another paragraph about certified copies. It states that if you are outside the US,
Have the officers at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas provide certification and authentication services. Contact the Consular Section, American Citizens Services of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in advance to determine the hours of operation for these services.
Note that it says to contact the "American Citizens Services". So I don't know whether it's possible to get a certified copy from, say, a French embassy in the US for a French passport.
Finally, if you don't want to send off your original documents, you can do one of these:
- Visit certain Taxpayer Assistance Centers
(TACs) can verify original documentation and certified copies of the documentation from the issuing agency for primary and secondary applicants and their dependents. For dependents, TACs can verify passports, national identification cards, and birth certificates. These documents will be returned to you immediately. Service at these centers is by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 1-844-545-5640.
- Find a CAA, Certified Acceptance Agent
A Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA) can verify original documentation and certified copies of the documentation from the issuing agency for primary and secondary applicants and their dependents. For dependents, CAAs can only verify passports and birth certificates. The CAA will return the documentation immediately after reviewing its authenticity.
There are also Acceptance Agents but they must send your documentation to the processing center.