How Do I Apply for a Social Security Card?

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Getting a Social Security card is actually a very simple process, and often, it’s free.
There is no charge to replace your Social Security card with a new one, as long as you have not applied at least 3 times this year or 10 times in your life.
You can actually do this online if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a legal citizen of the United States and are at least 18 years of age.
  • You have a mailing address in the United States.
  • You are not requesting a card with a new name, such as in the case of a legal name change.
  • You have a government-issued ID card or driver’s license from any of the states listed on the Social Security website.

If you do not meet all of the above criteria, then you’ll have to apply in-person and bring the required documents. The documents required depend on your citizenship and the card type you’re requesting.

If you can’t apply online, here’s what you’ll need:

Proof of Citizenship

United States-issued birth certificates and United States-issued passports are the only proof of citizenship that is accepted to replace lost Social Security cards.

Proof of Age

In most cases, the Social Security Administration will use your birth certificate to prove your age. However, if you do not possess a birth certificate then the following might be accepted:

  • Religious records that show date of birth. These records must be from when you were 5 years old or younger.
  • Hospital records from your birth.
  • United States Passport.

Proof of Identity

The Social Security Administration will only accept certain documents as proof of identity. Acceptable documents must not be expired and must show your full name, date of birth, and preferably a photograph. Some examples include:

  • Driver’s License.
  • Identification Card issued by the State you Reside In
  • U.S. Passport

If you are unable to provide any of the above documents, then other forms of identification can be used. Keep in mind that any submitted documents will need your name, preferably a photograph, and any other identifying information.

  • Employee ID
  • School ID
  • Health Insurance Card
  • U.S.-Issued Military ID

Step-by-Step Look at Replacing a Social Security Card

Once you have all of the required documents gathered, here is the exact process for replacing your Social Security card. This process is for adults. If you need to replace a card for a child, then the process is a bit different.  

Step 1: Gather all Required Documents

By this point, you should have all of these documents prepared. Just make sure they are all organized and ready for submission so that the process will go smoothly.

Step 2: Fill Out the Application

The form is called Form SS-5. Fill it out, print it, and put all documentation with it. Keep in mind that you will need to provide all documents along with the application. Photocopies of these documents will not be accepted – only the originals. If you’re worried about keeping copies, keep in mind that all documents will be mailed back to you along with your new Social Security card.

Step 3: Submit the Application

You can either submit the application in-person or mail it. Again, you must send in the originals or copies that are certified through the issuing agency. You cannot send photocopies.
You will not be charged to replace your card but there is a limit to how many times you can request a replacement for free.
It is either:

  • 3 times per Year.
  • 10 times in your lifetime.

There are third-party companies that can help with replacing your Social Security card. Like with taxes, you can either file the paperwork yourself or pay for their assistance. Either way is fine, but be sure that you hire a certified company if you plan to go that route.

How to Replace a Social Security Card for a Child

If you need to replace your child’s social security card, here are the steps you will need to follow.

Step 1: Gather All Documents Proving the Child’s Identity

Just like for adults, you will need to prove the identity of the child. Pretty much any document that proves the child’s U.S. citizenship will work. If the child has not been established as a U.S. citizen yet, then that will need to be done.

Step 2: Gather All Documents Proving Your Relationship with the Child

In addition to the child’s proof, you will need to prove your identity as a legal guardian of the child. In most cases, a birth certificate or adoption papers will do.

Step 3: Fill out the Application

This process is the same as described in the section above for adults.

Step 4: Submit the Application

Either submit the application in-person or mail it along with all documents listed above. Remember, photocopied documents are not accepted. The documents must be originals or certified copies by the issuing agency.

Individuals Applying for an Original Social Security Card

If for some reason you need to apply for an original social security card, the process is going to be much different.
Anyone who is over 12 years of age and never had an original Social Security number on record will be required to appear in-person for an interview where they will be asked to show evidence that they don’t have a current number.
For individuals who lived in another country for an extended period of time, passports, school records, employment records, and documents that prove long-term residence outside of the United States can be used as proof.
For individuals who have lived in the United States but are applying for a number, school and tax records can be used to prove that they were never assigned a number.

Social Security Cards for Noncitizens

This is only needed by noncitizens who want to work in the United States. The Social Security numbers for these people are used to report wages to the federal government to determine that person’s eligibility to collect Social Security benefits.
Immigrants can apply in two ways:

In home country when applying for an immigrant visa.

Generally, this prevents an in-person visit to the Social Security office when the applicant arrives in the United States.

In person once they arrive

Going this route, they will need to prove identity, age, immigration status, clearance to work, and passport.

What is a Social Security card for?

Basically, this card (and number) is used to track your lifetime earnings and work history so that during retirement or if/when you need to access Social Security disability benefits, the government can determine your eligibility.
This number will be used by all of your employers to report your earnings to the IRS and your Social Security wages to the SSA.
You also need to use your Social Security number when opening an account at a bank, applying for a federal loan, enrolling in Medicare, getting a passport, filing a tax return, getting a driver’s license, and more.

About The Author: Susan Dover

Susan is one of the leading Social Security experts in the country. She is driven by a passion for helping people access the benefits that they have earned.