Whether your old Social Security card was lost, stolen, damaged or you’re doing the paperwork to become a U.S. citizen, you may need to know how to apply for a Social Security card. Although knowing your Social Security number is usually enough, there are many reasons to keep track of your Social Security card and ensure that you have one accessible. A few examples may include getting a mortgage or applying for a job. Therefore, let’s try to go through the application process as quickly as possible.
How do I apply for a new Social Security card?
The process to apply for a Social Security card will vary based on your circumstances and reasons for applying. For example, if you have never had a Social Security card or number, you will need to go through a slightly different process than someone who is merely replacing a lost or damaged card. Additionally, if you need to change your Social Security number, you can do so using the same form (more on that below).
If you are applying to replace a lost or damaged Social Security card, you will need to go through one of two possible processes:
Apply for a replacement Social Security card online
The easiest way to apply for a new Social Security card is through the “My Social Security Account” online portal. You just have to make an account, which may require you to input all of your information from scratch. However, you also have the option to create an account using existing accounts through other government portals. If you already have a My Social Security Account, great! You can skip ahead to the next step.
Once your account has been created, you will need to ensure that you meet the following criteria to apply for a new Social Security card online:
- Must be a U.S. citizen who is 18 years or older
- Have a mailing address in the United States
- *Have a driver’s license or other state-issued identification (like a passport)
*As of 2021, IDs issued in the following states do not qualify for online Social Security card application: Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
It’s also important to note that you can only apply for a new Social Security card online if you do not intend to make any changes. For example, if you have recently had a name change, the new name will need to be reflected on your Social Security card. Applying for a name change on your card means that you cannot apply online.
Apply for a replacement Social Security card in person or by mail
If you do not qualify to apply for a Social Security card online, you can still apply in person or by mail. First, you will need to gather all of the relevant, original documents (or certified copies), including:
- Proof of U.S. citizenship (birth certificate or passport)
- Proof of age (birth certificate, passport, or religious record)
- Proof of identity (driver’s license, passport, or other state-issued ID)
- If you cannot provide one of the documents above, you may be able to use proof of employment, a military ID, a school ID, or a health insurance card
It’s important to remember that the Social Security Administration will only accept original documents. You cannot show a photocopy unless that copy has been certified by the same agency that issued the document. Once you have all of these documents ready, you can begin the actual application process.
You will need to print and fill out the official Social Security card application form. Fortunately, the form includes in-depth instructions on exactly how to fill out the form and where to send it. You can choose to mail it to your nearest Social Security office or deliver it in person. You can find the nearest SSA office right here using your ZIP code.
If you’re filling out the application for someone else (like an elderly person or someone under the age of 18), you must show proof of your identity and your relationship to the applicant. This is most common for parents who are applying for new Social Security cards on behalf of their children. Since the application form requires the signature of a person who is 18 years or older, children are not able to apply on their own. Additionally, if the applicant is 12 years of age or older and has never had a Social Security card, they must appear in person (with a legal guardian if under 18) to apply.
What to do if you’ve never had a Social Security card or number
Naturally, if you’re becoming a U.S. citizen, you will not have had a Social Security number or card before. This means that you will need to provide slightly different documents to acquire a Social Security number and card, though you can still use the same application forms and processes. In addition to the documents listed above (besides proof of citizenship), you will need to show proof of your right to live and work in the United States. These documents can include:
- Document issued by DHS, including Form I-551, I-94, or I-766
- (For foreign exchange students or visiting workers) Form I-20, DS-2019, or an authorizing letter from your school or employer
- (For immigrants not eligible to work) Documents from a federal, state, or local government agency explaining the reasons why you need a Social Security number and card
Can I change my Social Security number?
Yes! You can change your Social Security number, but only if you meet certain requirements. Social Security numbers can be changed if:
- Sequential numbers assigned to members of your family are causing issues
- More than one person is using the same Social Security number
- You have been the victim of identity theft
- There is a situation of harassment, abuse, or life endangerment
- You have religious or cultural objections to certain numbers or digits in the original number (documentation must be provided from your religious group)