Basic Facts About Social Security|
Social Security Payment|
Social Security Branch Offices|
Every American citizen receives a Social Security card practically at birth. The unique Social Security number enables the Social Security Administration (SSA) to keep track of wages earned, thus determining the cardholder’s eligibility to receive benefits on retirement. One’s Social Security number is also used as unique identification in a wide variety of circumstances, whether setting up a bank account, applying for a loan, or applying for a job. One can’t do without it.
When you have a baby, you should apply for a Social Security card for your newborn; although it’s not required by law, the SSA strongly recommends it. Your infant will need a unique number so that you can claim him or her as a dependent on your income tax return. Your baby will also need a number if you plan to open a bank account in his or her name, buy savings bonds for the child, apply for any government services benefitting the child, or obtain medical coverage for the child. Getting a number is most easily done when you apply for a birth certificate for your baby; the state agency that issues birth certificates will forward the information to the SSA, who will then mail the new card to you. Usually, you can arrange this right at the hospital where your baby was born; all you need to provide is both parents’ Social Security numbers.
If you apply for your baby’s Social Security number in person at your local SSA service center, you must show proof of your baby’s U.S. citizenship, age, and identity, plus proof of your own identity. Proof of citizenship can be a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. consular report of birth, Certificate of Naturalization or of Citizenship, or a U.S. passport. (Noncitizens can also obtain Social Security cards, but will have to provide additional information; check the SSA’s website for details.) Your child’s age can also be verified with a birth certificate. As for proof of identification, you must present a current document showing the child’s name, identifying information, and preferably a photograph; examples of such identification include an adoption decree, a hospital record, a religious record (such as a baptismal decree), or a school record or identification card.
You must also fill out an application form, Form SS-5. Once you have presented all this information, the SSA must then verify the child’s birth record, which can take up to three months. The verification process is necessary to prevent fraud; some scammers use fraudulent birth records to create false identities.
If your child is adopted, the SSA can issue a Social Security card before the adoption process is complete, but you may wish to wait so that you can use the child’s new name (if applicable), listing you as the parent. In the meantime, if you’re filing your taxes and want to list your soon-to-be-adopted child as a dependent, you can contact the Internal Revenue Service and obtain Form W-7A, which assigns a taxpayer identification number in cases of pending adoptions.
If you are an adult applying for a Social Security card for the first time, the process is similar; you’ll need to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, age, and identity, and fill out Form SS-5. (Again, noncitizens applying for a card will need to provide additional information; check the SSA’s website for details.) If you’re over twelve years of age and applying for a card for the first time, the Social Security Administration will wish to interview you to verify that you don’t already have an assigned number.
Note that all documents you present must be originals; photocopies, even if notarized, will not be sufficient. Therefore, you can’t apply for a card online. You must mail your documents and Form SS-5 to the SSA, or better, visit your local service center and submit your documents in person.
The Social Security card application procedure is fairly straightforward, and if you’re missing certain documents, a Social Security staff member can help you find alternative documents. There’s no reason to delay!