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Your Social Security Number & Card

For any American citizen, whether it is through birth or naturalization, a social security card is one of the most important things you will possess. Whether you are applying for a social security card for the first time or you need a replacement, it is an important thing to have — but why? What purpose does it serve?

Why Do You Need One?

A social security number is necessary for you to gain employment, receive specific government services, file tax returns, and to collect social security benefits. Throughout your life, credit companies, banks, and many other businesses will ask for your social security number.

Your first and continuing relationship with Social Security is your 9-digit social security number. Financial institutions use your social security number to track your credit history and other aspects of your economic life.

If you are lawfully living in the U.S. but aren't a U.S. citizen, you will also need a social security number. Non-citizens require work authorization from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To obtain a Social Security card, you will be required to prove your work-authorized immigration status.

How to Apply

To apply for a social security card, you will have to complete the Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). You will need to provide the Social Security office with original copies of certain documents or copies the issuing agency certifies. The Social Security office will not accept notarized copies or photocopies. Also, the papers must be up-to-date and not expired.

To prove your U.S. citizenship, identity, and age you will need to provide at least two separate documents. The Social Security Administration may use one document for two purposes, but you still must provide two separate documents. These could include:

  • To prove citizenship: U.S. birth certificate or passport.
  • To prove identity: U.S. driver’s license, U.S. passport, State-issued identification card or other approved documents such as:
    • school identification card
    • employee identification card
    • U.S. military identification card
    • health insurance card (can’t be a Medicare card)

  • To prove age: Birth certificate or other acceptable documents like your U.S. passport, U.S. hospital record of birth or religious record that shows your date of birth and originated before you were five years old.

Those who are 12 years old or older must go to the Social Security office for an interview if they are applying for an original social security number. You will need evidence that you do not already have a social security number.

Replacing a Lost Card

To get a replacement card, you will need to prove your U.S. citizenship and identity by following the information above. You can apply for your replacement card through my Social Security account if you:

  • Are 18 years old or older and a U.S. citizen with a mailing address, including FPO, APO and DPO addresses.
  • Have a driver's license or an identification card that's issued by certain states provided on this list.
  • Aren't requesting any changes to your card like a name change.

Be sure to contact your local social security office to see if you are in a state qualifies you to apply for your replacement card online. If you do not qualify, you will need to either go to the office or print and mail in your application and required documents.

Remember, all documents you submit need to be originals or issuing agency certified copies. If you do not have proper versions of the documents detailing your birth, marriage or divorce in the U.S., you can usually request those records at your state's website. The National Center for Health Statistics maintains a listing of vital record resources located at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/index.htm.

If you are applying on behalf of another person, you will need to show the Social Security office evidence of your responsibility for/or relationship to that person. You will need to prove your identity as well.

Finally, social security cards are free. Often, you may run across businesses that offer social security cards or name changes for a fee. Don't pay for a Social Security card that you can get for free through the Social Security office. For your protection, always work with the official Social Security Administration, whether online, over the phone, or at your local office, for all social security number related questions and transactions.