Your Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number that remains your first and continuous link with social security. It helps the Social Security Administration (SSA) record a person’s self-employment earnings or wages accurately. The SSA also uses the SSN to monitor a person’s record once they start to receive benefits.
Why Do You Need an SSN?
A Social Security Number is required for you to collect Social Security benefits, get a job, and even enjoy access to various government services. However, you won’t often have to show your Social Security Card. The Social Security Administration advises you not to carry your card with you but rather to keep it in a safe place with your other important documents.
Documents Needed to Get a Social Security Card
The following is a breakdown of the documents required to apply for a Social Security Number and card. It is worth noting that all documents listed here should be originals or copies that the issuing agency has certified. The Social Security Administration cannot and does not accept either photocopies or notarized copies of the documents.
Proof of Identity and Citizenship
If you wish to get a Social Security Number or card, you should first prove your immigration status, citizenship, identity, and age. If applying for a replacement card, proof of age and citizenship are not required since the SSA already has this information in its records.
It is only a handful of documents that can be accepted as proof of citizenship. They include a U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, or a Certificate of Naturalization. If you are not a United States citizen, different rules apply to proving your immigration status.
Only certain documents are acceptable as proof of identity. Acceptable documents should show your name, identifying information about you, and a recent photo whenever possible.
If you are a United States citizen, you can use your:
- – Driver’s license
- – State-issued identity card that isn’t a driver’s license
- – U.S. Passport.
- If you don’t have any of these documents, the SSA will ask for other documents, including:
- – Adoption decree
- – Military ID card
- – Health insurance card
- – School ID card
- – Employee ID card
If you are not a United States citizen, you must provide your current immigration documents. Acceptable documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) include:
- – Work permit card
- – I-94 with an unexpired foreign passport
- – Form I-551
Documents Needed for a Name Change
If you change your name legally due to a court order, divorce, marriage, or any other reason, you need to inform the SSA to get a corrected card. If you are currently working, you should also inform your employer. If you fail to inform the SSA about your name changes, it can:
- – Delay your tax refund
- – Prevent your wages from being correctly attributed to your Social Security record, which can reduce the amount of your future Social Security benefits.
If you want to change the name on the Social Security card, you have to show the SSA a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change. Documents that the SSA accepts when it comes to proving a legal name change include:
- – Court order for a name change
- – Divorce decree
- – Marriage document
If the document you offer as evidence of a legal name change doesn’t give the SSA sufficient information to identify you according to its record, or if you legally changed your name over 2 years ago, you need to provide further documentation.
Annulment, Divorce, or Marriage: Besides providing legal documentation proving your marriage, annulment, or divorce status, you will still be required to provide a document proving your identity. Acceptable documents should show your old name along with other identifying information. Expired documents are also acceptable as evidence of your old name.
Naturalization, Adoption, or Other Name Change: Besides providing the SSA with a legal document citing your new names, such as an adoption decree, court order, or Certificate of Naturalization, you will also be required to provide 2 identity documents that include:
- – Identity document in your old name even if it is expired
- – Identity document in the new legal name that’s not expired
Both of the documents must show identifying information or at least a recent photograph.
Citizenship: If you are a United States citizen born outside the U.S. and the SSA’s records don’t show you to be a citizen, you will be required to provide further proof of your United States citizenship. If you aren’t a United States citizen, the SSA will ask to see the current immigration documents. The new card will have the same number as the old one, but it will show the new name.
Verification of Birth Records
The SSA must verify United States-born individuals’ birth records that want to apply for an original Social Security Number or correct the birth date on the SSA’s records. The SSA does this by contacting the office responsible for issuing it. The only exception is when a parent applies for his/her child’s Social Security Number at the hospital.
It is worth noting that “United States-born” refers to a person born in the 50 states, U.S. Virgin Islands, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.
Limits to Replacement Cards
You are free to replace your Social Security card in case it is stolen or lost. You are limited to a maximum of 3 replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Changes in noncitizen status and legal name changes may not necessarily count towards these limits. You may also not be affected by the limits if you can prove that the card is needed to prevent a significant hardship.
If you would like to get either a new or replacement Social Security card, the information provided here should be sufficient. If you are not sure about anything, you can directly contact the SSA to clarify and additional information.