How do I get a Social Security Card?

Mary McMahon

The process for getting a Social Security Card is free, and requires people to fill out a Form SS-5, which is an application for a Social Security Card, and to present proof of identity and citizenship status. The process is slightly different depending on whether someone is applying for an original Social Security Number and card, a replacement for a lost or stolen card, or an amended card to reflect a name change or to correct information which is not accurate. In all cases, once someone has completed the process to get a Social Security Card, the card should be guarded closely.

Proof of citizenship is necessary to obtain a Social Security card.
Proof of citizenship is necessary to obtain a Social Security card.

For someone who wants to get a Social Security Card for the first time, it will be necessary to apply for a Social Security Number, with the card being issued as part of this process. Many parents in the United States do this when they file birth certificates for their children, as a matter of convenience. To get a Social Security Card, applicants need a Form SS-5, proof of identity, proof of age, and proof of citizenship. The Social Security Administration is picky about which documents it will accept, and it is a good idea to bring along all supporting documents, as everyone over the age of 12 who applies for a brand new number and card will need to appear in person and it can be hard to get an appointment at the Social Security office, making it critical to have everything necessary for the process to run smoothly. Good choices of documents include: birth certificates, passports, and immigration papers. In all cases, the originals will be required.

For people who need to make a name change or another amendment, an SS-5 will need to be filled out, and the applicant will need to provide documentation supporting the change to the Social Security Card. People should be very careful when they get a Social Security card after a name change, as variations as small as hyphens in married names can cause problems with identity matching software, and it is critical to make sure that a Social Security Card is consistent with other legal documents.

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Individuals who have lost their cards or who have had their cards stolen can get a Social Security Card by providing filled out Form SS-5 and proof of identity. People are limited to 10 replacement cards in their lifetimes.

Depending on someone's immigration status, a Social Security Card may have amendments. For example, the card may indicate that it is not valid for employment, or that the cardholder can work only after being authorized by the Department of Homeland Security. People should be aware that tampering with a Social Security Card can have serious legal penalties.

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