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How to get a US ITIN number if you’re canadian (ie. my 20 steps to getting a certified copy of a canada passport – red tape and bureaucracy in canada (and US))

UPDATE: @Tim has updated that the US no longer allows any notary publics to certify the passport – they need the original certifier, which i guess means Passport Canada is the only option.

So i worked as a program manager at Microsoft last summer and the US government, in accordance with its fiscal policies, “withheld” a lot of my taxes. in order to get them back and to maximize my tax savings, i needed to get vicki (my wife) a US tax payer number (ITIN).

however, to do that, i needed a certified copy of her passport. here is what i did to get it.

  1. searched online to see if i could just go to the passport office – someone did.
  2. phoned the passport office to see if i could. couldn’t.
  3. they gave me a number for “passport information” or something like that in ottawa. called.
  4. was told i’d need a letter, with her DOB, name, etc. and her signature authorizing the copy to be made and sent to our address. the letter would need to be faxed
  5. FAXED?!?!? why is the government still using FAX?!?!
  6. i politely asked for an e-mail.
  7. got a cryptic five letter e-mail address.
  8. wrote the letter. vicki signed it. i sent it into the e-mail address.
  9. bounced back – e-mail address was wrong. (I KNEW IT!!!)
  10. after a few tries, fed up and used freefax to send in the fax
  11. called back to confirm receipt of the e-mail. was confirmed (by the same guy who talked to me – i think they only have one person in that office)
  12. waited three weeks.
  13. received an e-mail from a totally different person in the “government.” told me i would need to go into the nearby passport office
  14. was angry with rage
  15. went into the office – told me i would need a letter. WHAT LETER?!?!
  16. came back with the letter. told me they needed proof from US that i needed a certified copy.
  17. third time’s the charm: i brought back my US taxes and they took her passport. was told TWO WEEKS.
  18. QUESTION: canada – why does it take you two weeks to photocopy a passport and stamp it?
  19. politely asked to rush the process as it had been over a month since I first asked passport canada for this copy.
  20. they got back in less than a week.

See, the main area of concern for me is that the canadian government has so much beaurocratic mumbo jumbo that different people will tell you different things depending on the different days.


And quite frankly, they not only waste MY time, they’re also wasting their OWN time and money – two valuable resources that end up being funded by the taxpayers.

What do you think?



Jon Chui (pronounced "chew") has been building iOS/Android apps for the last 7 years, the last 3 working on Google Maps, Inbox by Gmail and Google's Search App. Though he grew up in a Christian family and to parents who would end up giving up their 25 years of hard-earned comforts/affluence in Canada to go back to China as missionaries when he was 14, being a Christian was always in his head, and he would constantly struggle with trying to unify the sacred and the secular - until last year. However, through a radical transformation[] @ work last year (which he can't take ANY credit for), he & his wife & 2 young boys have decided to leave Google, sell/donate everything they have so to serve the poor & marginalized with Jesus’ love as missionaries with's Family DTS in Kona, hawaii then to the Philippines. Read more about their family journey @, and reach out to him @ If you're a recruiter with freelance jobs or have tech projects for jon feel free to reach out to him -

26 thoughts on “How to get a US ITIN number if you’re canadian (ie. my 20 steps to getting a certified copy of a canada passport – red tape and bureaucracy in canada (and US))

  1. Hi,
    I, like you, just looked online to try to figure out how I can get my Canadian passport certified because I need to fill out a W7 IRA form to get an ITIN. Your blog post came up.

    Frankly, I’m finding the American bureaucracy just as headache-inducing, but if there’s any way your story can help me to reduce the pain on the Canadian end, hey, I’ll take what I can get.

    Do you happen to know what kind of U.S. proof they require in order to certify the passport copy? Would a letter from the American university who would essentially be my employer do? (I haven’t yet paid any US taxes–I’m filling out these IRS forms in order to qualify for an exemption from that.)

    I realize you may not know the answer to that, but I figured it was worth asking. (I was going to e-mail you, but it seemed rude.)

    Naomi B.

    1. Hey Naomi,

      Thanks for reading my blog – it’s a weird but nice feeling to know that my struggles can go to benefit someone else. lol

      For the proof, all I needed was the W7 IRA form. Seriously. And specifically, the part in the form that asks you to get a certified passport. Of course, show them that you’ve begun to fill out the form.

      You can also bring the letter, but that didn’t help me much.

      It’s pretty fast once you know what you need to do – but you have to wait a couple weeks for the certified passport (which is just a photocopy with a signature… I guess that’s where our taxdollars go to)

      Hope the helps. Feel free to email me if you need more information.

  2. Great! Thanks, Jon.

    And yeah, this Brave New World [depending on your age ;-)] *is* weird–but in this case, I’d say in a good way . . .

  3. Just wondering is the US gov’t accepted this certified copy from the Canadian passport office? I was told that only a US notary can certify anything for the IRS. Let me know if it all worked out for you in the end.


    1. This was a while ago @Ria, but from my recollection when I finally got a “certified copy” of my canadian passport, it was ok.

      I think i recall that in order for the IRS to accept it I needed to either get it certified by
      1) the canadian governmenet
      2) a us notary

      If i knew about 2), i would’ve just crossed the border & done it. but i think i also wanted to save $ at the time (since the canadian gov did it for free, but took weeks, i essentially the price of my time for the costs)

  4. My (Canadian) husband and I walked into the IRS office in Portland Oregon 2 weeks ago and was told to get a certified copy from “whoever issues passports in Canada”. When my husband returns to Edmonton next week, he’s just going to walk into the Passport Canada office with his passport and ask for one.

  5. Jon,

    It is 2012. Your post still benefit some Canadians who needs a certified copy of passprot. Same as you, I need a ITIN. I think I should walk into passport office with my W-7 form and passport, then they will do it for me, correct?

    Thank you,


    1. Make sure to bring “proof” that you need a certified passport (which, in my case, was my US taxes and a “letter” stating that i needed it). You can try calling the passport office to confirm that, but as you read, they seem to be disconnected from what actually happens.

    2. Yes instead of mailing the W-7 you can hand it in and your tax return at the IRS office in person (the ITIN applicant plus his original passport). Be prepared for a long wait in that office! You also might need a “Election to be treated as a resident Alien” form.

  6. I am also in the process of trying to get a certified copy of my passport for an ITIN. The IRS told me I had to go to a Canadian Passport office to get a copy OR to a a US Notory.
    Since I live in the middle of nowhere, I called Passport Canada — they had no clue where the closest office to me was…they suggested I drive to Toronto (7 hours away). They were not sure if a passport receiving agent through Services Canada could do it. I’d call Services Canada but they don’t have telephone numbers, only addresses. The closest receiving agent for me is an hour away.
    I called my local MP but his office is closed until February 28th. This process is ridiculous.
    Thanks for sharing this information online.

  7. Since June, 2012 rules got changed and now IRS only accepts certified copies or original documents. Since sending my passport in the mail to “who knows where” and hope that it gets returned within 60 days is not really an option for me, I will try the certified copy route.

    I have only had to send my passport in the mail once, and it wasn’t really even mail it was directly by international courier to a lawyer when I first needed to come to Canada on a work visa while my resident application was still in progress. I got my passport back in 4 days but it was 4 very uncomfortable days. I can’t imagine sending it away for 2 months so I am sure most of their applicants send certified copies.

    Was there a fee that had to be paid? I suspect not otherwise you would have mentioned.

    Anyway I will start my process during next week and give them a call and eventually post back here what my process was when I eventually have everything done. I just need an ITIN so that I can open a bank account in the US so that I can receive passive income.

    Thanks a lot for posting your own experience (even though it was from a while back) to save the rest of us some of this ridiculous run-around. And I myself learned from a long time ago that only faxes seem to work well with these government agencies, email is sort of hit-and-miss.

    1. Hey Richard. I didn’t have to pay a fee. But, as you can read, it *did* take a long time.

      If you’re not comfortable w/ a local passport office in Canada taking your passport for a couple of weeks, the other option (i was told @ the time) was to go to a notary public in the United States of America (not Canada, cause of course our notaries are not “certified” enough for them). You pay for this route, but at least you don’t have to waste time.

      Let me know how things go for you.

      1. Hi Jon,

        Well I would definitely pay if that option was still available because I am just 1.5 hours from the border. However, based on the IRS website that option is not available currently, the new interim rules until the end of this year are that only original documents or copies that have been certified by the issuing body will be accepted along with the application.

        Given my current options, I don’t mind having the local passport office hold my passport. They are the “Passport Office” after-all so if they lose it I expect they will have to re-issue me a new one. However, sending it by regular mail to only god knows where and then it gets lost is more worrying to me. Chances are the loss rate is low but I would never like to be in that group of people (whatever the low percentage is who) lose their stuff in the mail. I’d rather take my chances with the passport office since the probability of them giving me back my original passport, or a new one should they lose it, is much much higher.

        The IRS claims that they may need your original document for up to 60 days, now that’s a long time. 🙂

  8. The IRS will no longer certified copies of ID by notary public… only a certification by the original issuer.

    I recently asked Passport Canada about this. You can see the answer at – I’ve posted the required form on that page as well. The steps are all listed there.

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  11. Just came across this blog and replies. Our daughter has to get an ITIN; she works full time and has a young family and has no time for this rig-a-ma-roll. Very helpful. Yes, the US has become a VERY bureaucratic nightmare for non-citizens (and for citizens living in Canada, too!) Thanks for all this info.

  12. Hi Jon!
    Do you know if the certified copy of passport from the passport office includes the visa pages? Or is the copy just a copy of the photo page?

    Thank you 🙂

  13. Great Blog. after reading it i was discouraged and not looking forward to this entire process. TO be honest, i thought this whole thing was simply a matter of photocopying my passport and bringing it to one of the many Service Canada locations to be certified (i was being too optimistic i guess). My process so far, after 4 calls to Service Canada (which i must say were all very quickly answered, not even 1 ring and quickly resolved my question, even though the answer wasn’t right the first time, i expect this was a result of me not being clear in my first call?) Either way, so far I’ve determined the need to complete a form (, and i will also need to present the form and hand over my Active passport to the passport office, where they send both the form and my active passport away (to Ottawa i assume) where, for $45 i will be able to have 3 certified copies of my passport, as well as my original active passport returned to me.

    Key lesson learned here for me is; i should have applied for an American SSN for all the benefits it carries, including but not limited to get a US credit rating.

    Im sure i will be in for a few more surprises. Im fortunate to have the company i work for supporting me through the process.

    Thanks for your blog, i never respond to blogs, though i felt obliged considering the 1/2 day I’ve spent so far getting to the bottom of this. ugh. Cheers.

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