How to Get an EIN for Foreigners: Complete Guide

Panna Kemenes

Are you a foreigner looking to start a business or work in the United States? Getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a key step.

Your EIN serves as a unique identifier for your business or employment in the US and will allow you to legally conduct financial transactions. Read on to learn why you need an EIN, find out who's eligible, and understand the complete application process, step by step.

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What is an EIN for Foreigners?

An EIN is a distinctive nine-digit number the IRS assigns to business entities. As a foreigner, if you engage in business in the US or need to comply with the IRS in other circumstances, you're expected to obtain an EIN. It's a way for the IRS to keep track of your tax reporting and payment obligations, as well as identify your business for legal and financial purposes.¹

Why Do Foreigners Need an EIN?

Foreign nationals and entrepreneurs may require an EIN for several reasons when interacting with US businesses or engaging in activities that necessitate a tax identification number.

The following are the most common reasons why foreigners need an EIN:

  • Tax compliance: It’s a legal requirement for foreign entities operating a business in the United States to have an EIN for tax reporting purposes

  • Financial operations: Various financial operations such as opening a US bank account in the name of the business, establishing business credit, and applying for business loans require an EIN²

  • Employee management: If your business employs workers in the United States, an EIN is necessary to handle employee payroll taxes and to issue essential tax documents such as Form W-2

  • Contractual needs: An EIN is sometimes required for contracts with US companies to manage withholding taxes³

  • Business licensing: Some state and local licenses may require an EIN to process your application (e.g. liquor license, construction permit)⁴

How to Get an EIN for Foreigners

Applying an EIN as a foreigner is pretty straightforward but you can only do it online if you've got a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If you don't have a valid SSN or ITIN, you're going to need to apply for an EIN through mail or fax. Here's a quick rundown of the eligibility requirements and a step-by-step guide on how to apply.⁵

Eligibility Criteria for Foreign EIN

Foreign individuals and entities are eligible to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if they are involved in business activities that require compliance with US tax obligations. The following are the primary qualifying scenarios where a foreign entity might need an EIN:

  • Non-resident alien individual: If you're not a US citizen or green card holder but do business in the US requiring you to file taxes, you'll need to obtain for an EIN

  • Foreign corporation: Companies based outside the US but operating within need an EIN for taxes and reporting

  • Foreign partnership: Similar to foreign corporations, foreign partnerships doing business in the US must have an EIN

  • Non-US trust or estate: Non-US citizens with a trust or estate in the US that generates income need an EIN

  • Foreign-owned single-member LLC: LLCs owned by non-US individuals or entities need an EIN for US tax reasons

  • Keogh plan: A Keogh plan is a tax-deferred pension plan available to self-employed individuals or unincorporated businesses that requires an EIN⁶

Step-by-Step Application Guide

To apply for an EIN as a foreign entity, follow this concise step-by-step guide:

  1. Get your information ready. Before jumping into the application, double check you've got everything you need:
  • Your legal name and address
  • The legal name and address of your business
  • Your Taxpayer Identification Number (if you have one)
  1. Fill out Form SS-4: You'll need to fill out Form SS-4. Be careful when filling out this form, as any mistakes could lead to delays in your application being processed

  2. Send over your application: You have multiple options for submitting your EIN application:

    • Fax: Fax your completed Form SS-4 to the either 855-215-1627 if faxing within the US or 304-707-9471 if faxing from outside the US (replies take up to 4 business days)⁷
    • Mail: Mail your completed Form SS-4 to the address listed on the form (replies take up to 4 weeks)
    • Phone: Call the IRS at 267-941-1099 from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST Monday through Friday (not a toll-free number)

Note that if you have an ITN or existing EIN, you can apply for an EIN online. There is a limit of 1 EIN per responsible party per day. The IRS provides a comprehensive guide on these application methods, which you can view here.

Common Challenges and Solutions

From language barriers and application errors to missing documents and difficulty staying in contact, there are a few common challenges that may arise when applying for an EIN. Let's take a look at some of these challenges and how you can address them.

Language Barriers

Language barriers are a common challenge for non-native English speakers when filling out the Form SS-4 due to its technical language and complex instructions.

To overcome this, you can seek assistance from a professional translator or consult with an attorney who is familiar with the application process. Additionally, you can also use translation tools or seek help from a friend or family member who is fluent in English.

Missing Documents

When mailing or faxing the EIN application, it is important to include all required documents and information. If any documents are missing, the application may be rejected or delayed. To avoid this issue, make sure to carefully read the instructions on the form and double-check that all necessary documents are included before submitting.

Staying in Contact

The IRS may need to contact the responsible party for additional information or clarification during the EIN application process. For foreigners who are not easily reachable, this could potentially cause delays or complications. To prevent this, it is important to provide accurate contact information and to regularly check for any updates or requests from the IRS.

Using Your EIN as a Foreigner

So you've successfully obtained your EIN as a foreigner, now what? From opening a US bank account to finally establishing your business presence in the US, there are several ways you can utilize your EIN.

Tax Reporting in the US

When you're doing business in the United States and have an EIN, you've got to keep up with US tax laws. Your EIN is key for filing various business tax returns and making tax payments to both federal and state agencies.

If you have a foreign-owned US businesses, you'll use your EIN to file annual tax returns, like Form 1120 for corporations or Form 1065 for partnerships. Plus, you need to use your EIN for reporting employment taxes, and if it applies, excise taxes too.

Banking and Financial Transactions

As a foreigner, having an EIN makes handling your finances in the US significantly easier. With an EIN, you can open a business bank account and conduct important kinds of transactions, like getting payments from clients or paying vendors. This doesn't just make your financial life smoother, but it also boosts your business's credibility in the US.


EIN for Foreigner: FAQs Addressed

Can a foreigner apply for an EIN without a Social Security Number (SSN)?

Yes, foreigners can totally get an EIN even if they don't have a Social Security Number (SSN). When you're filling out the IRS Form SS-4, just skip the part that asks for the SSN and provide other identification details instead.

How long does it take to get an EIN for foreign entities?

The time depends on your application method:

  • Phone: You get it right on the call
  • Fax: Around 4 business days
  • Mail: Between 4 to 5 weeks

Does it cost anything to apply for an EIN as a foreigner?

No, applying for an EIN is free of charge. The IRS doesn’t ask for a fee, no matter if you're from the US or abroad.

What documents do foreigners need for an EIN application?

Foreigners need to send in a copy of a valid passport as well as a fully filled out SS-4 form.⁸

Can foreign sole proprietors get an EIN?

Yes, foreign sole proprietors can get an EIN just like any other foreign entity by following the same process.


Getting an EIN is a must if you're a foreign entity eyeing the US market. It's not just about keeping the IRS happy; it's key to core business activities like opening a bank account, getting a team on board, and handling payments.

Luckily, obtaining an EIN from abroad is pretty straightforward. Stick to the steps we've laid out, make sure you've got your paperwork in order, and you'll be well on your way track to receiving your EIN and establishing your business in the US.

Meet Wise Business: Your Go-To for Stress-Free International Payments

Opening a business account as a foreigner can often be stressful and time consuming. This is where Wise Business can help.

Non-US citizens can open a US Wise Business account with a registered US business and US operating address. Alternatively, where Wise Business is available, you can open an account and get US account details to receive payments like a local.

Managing business finances abroad has never been easier with Wise Business. Wise is not a bank, but a Money Services Business (MSB) provider and a smart alternative to banks. Designed to streamline international payments, Wise allows you to handle 40+ currencies from 1 account and conduct batch payments with a single click, ensuring your entire team gets paid on time without any hassle.

Wise Business has no monthly fees or opening balance requirements and offers international payments at the mid-market rate. Plus, with features like multi-user access and payment limits, you can easily control and track all outgoing payments.

Sign up for Wise Business today and take a smart step towards international success.

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  1. IRS Employer's Tax Guide
  2. EIN to open business bank account
  3. Scenarios that require EIN
  4. Example of potential state requirements for EIN
  5. Information about EIN online application
  6. Do you need an EIN
  7. EIN application methods
  8. Passport for EIN application

All sources checked May 2024

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