Menu

Social Security Cards

A Social Security card is a vital document in America. It's proof of your Social Security number, which, among other uses, proves your unique identity, tracks how much money you've earned over a lifetime, and plays a role in getting government benefits.

If you were never issued a Social Security card, you can follow these steps to get a new document.

If you had a Social Security card, but have since lost it, you must follow a different process.

IMPORTANT: This page provides information pertaining to many situations, but it is by no means completely comprehensive. If you do not see your specific needs here, please visit the SSA's document guide for more detail.

General Application Process

Required Documents & Proof

To obtain a new Social Security card, you'll need to gather documents that prove your:

  • Citizenship.
  • Age.
  • Identity.

Acceptable credentials for these categories vary, based on your:

  • Citizenship status.
  • Place of birth.
  • Legal age status (i.e. whether you're considered an adult or a child).

You must provide at least 2 documents. The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) may end up using 1 document for 2 purposes listed above.

Documentation is specific to your citizenship status and age. See below for detailed information pertaining to your particular circumstances:

Applying for a Social Security Card

Once you've determined which types of identification the SSA requires of you (see categories below for specifics), you will have to take the following steps:

These steps pertain to everyone applying for a new Social Security card.

In-Person Interview

Individuals who are 12 years old or older must appear for an in-person interview. The applicant will be asked for evidence that he or she does not already have a Social Security number, which can be proven in several ways.

If you lived outside the country for a substantial period of time you will also need to provide:

  • A current or previous passport.
  • School and/or employment records.
  • Any other record that would show long-term residency outside the United States.

If you have lived primarily in the U.S., you will need to provide:

  • Information on any schools attended.
  • Copies of tax records showing there's not an assigned Social Security number.

NOTE: The SSA does NOT accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. They accept ONLY original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them.

U.S.-Born Citizens

If you're an American citizen who was born in one of the U.S. states or territories, there are certain acceptable forms of identification you must provide to prove your citizenship, age, and identity.

Once you've read through your required documentation, see the General Application Process section above for guidance on completing the rest of your Social Security card application.

Adults

Proof of Citizenship

Proof of citizenship can be verified with either:

  • Your U.S. passport.
  • Your birth certificate.

Proof of Age

In order to provide proof of age, you must present your birth certificate, if one exists. If you do not have a birth certificate, you can prove your age using:

  • A religious record made before you turned 5 years old, showing your date of birth.
  • A U.S. hospital record of birth.
    OR
  • Your U.S. passport.

Proof of Identity

Several documents can be used to provide proof of identity, such as:

  • Your U.S. driver's license.
  • A state-issued ID.
  • Your U.S. passport.

If you don't have any of these documents, you can instead submit:

  • An employee ID card.
  • A school ID card.
  • A health insurance card that's NOT for Medicare.
  • Your U.S. military ID card.
  • Anything current showing your:
    • Name.
    • Date of birth or age.
      AND
    • A recent photograph.

Children

Obtaining a Social Security card for a U.S.-born child is very similar to the process for an adult citizen born in the country.

The same documents can be used to prove citizenship and age.

The primary difference comes from the proof of identity. The Social Security Administration will not accept a birth certificate as a form of identification in this circumstance.

Allowable documents include:

  • U.S. passport.
  • State-issued ID card.
  • Adoption decree.
  • Doctor, clinic, or hospital record.
  • Religious record of the child's birth.
  • School or daycare center record.
  • School ID card.
  • Anything showing the child's:
    • Name.
    • Identifying information (age, date of birth,or parents' names).
    • Photo.

The child's parent applying on their behalf must also show proof of identity. Acceptable documents are the same as an adult U.S. citizen applying for a new Social Security card (see above).

U.S. Citizens Born Abroad

If you're an adult U.S. citizen who was born in another country, the Social Security Administration requires slightly different documents to prove your citizenship, age, and identity.

Once you understand the documents you need, see the General Application Process section above for the next steps in your application process.

Adults

Proof of Citizenship

Your proof of citizenship can be shown with one of several documents, including:

  • Your Certification of Report of Birth (Form DS-1350).
  • A Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240, CRBA).
  • Your U.S. passport.
  • A Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560/N-561).
  • Your Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-550/N-570).

Proof of Age

To prove your age, you must present your foreign birth certificate, if one exists. If it doesn't, proof of age can also be achieved by producing one of the following documents:

  • A foreign passport.
  • Any document issued by the Department of Homeland Security with your birthdate or age.

Proof of Identity

Documents needed for proof of identity are the same as those called for citizens born in the United States (see above). The SSA will accept several forms of identification, including:

  • Your U.S. driver's license.
  • A state-issued ID.
  • Your U.S. passport.

If you don't have any of these documents, you can instead submit a number of different ID cards produced by different agencies. See the section above on adult citizens born in the United States for more details.

Children

Applying for a Social Security card for an American child born abroad is the same process as an adult citizen born abroad, with the exception of the forms allowed to prove identity.

The Social Security Administration will accept certain documents that show the child's:

  • Name.
  • Identifying information (age, date of birth, or parents' names).
  • Recent photo.

Proof of identification will also be asked from the adult applying for the card on behalf of the child. The same documents used to prove an adult's identity to the SSA are permissible.

Adopted Children

If you're applying on behalf of an adopted child born abroad and is now a U.S. citizen, you can use the same documents as those for a child who is a U.S. citizen born abroad (see above).

Noncitizens

While it's unusual for a noncitizen to require a Social Security card, sometimes situations arise that call for its issue. Typically, you need permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security, but there are other, rarer situations that may also apply.

Unlike the process citizens must take to obtain a card, noncitizens must instead show their proofs of:

  • Immigration status.
  • Work eligibility.
  • Age.
  • Identity.

Adults

Proof of Immigration Status

The Social Security Administration will accept various documents to demonstrate proof of immigration status, including:

  • A Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa (Form I-551) with an unexpired foreign passport.
  • An Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766).
  • An Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) or admission stamp in an unexpired foreign passport.

In addition to the above, noncitizens of certain status must bring specific documentation:

  • Students of F-1 or M-1 status: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20).
  • Exchange visitors of J-1 or J-2 status: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019).

Proof of Work Eligibility

Proof of work eligibility can also be shown in several ways, depending on why and how you're in the country.

If you are a foreign worker, you can use one of the following:

  • Your Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94).
    OR
  • Your admission stamp in an unexpired foreign passport, showing a class of immigration permitting work.

You may also be asked to show your Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766).

Proof of Age

To prove your age to the Social Security Administration , you must present your foreign birth certificate, if it exists. If it does not, you can present one of the following documents:

  • Your passport.
  • Any document issued by the Department of Homeland Security showing your age or date of birth.

Proof of Identity

To prove your identity, you will need to show current documentation from the Department of Homeland Security.

Acceptable paperwork includes:

  • A Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).
  • An Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) with unexpired foreign passport or admission stamp.
  • An Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766).

Children

Obtaining a Social Security card for a noncitizen child is a very similar process as for an adult. The same forms can be used to prove a child's immigration status, work eligibility, and age.

To show proof of identity, you can use any of the same forms as an adult, in addition to anything showing the child's:

  • Name.
  • Identifying information, such as:
    • Age or date of birth.
    • Parents' names.
    • Recent photo.

Adults applying on behalf of a child must also show proof of identity.

Replacement & Corrected Social Security Cards

In order to have a replacement Social Security card issued, whether due to a lost card or a correction (such as a name change), you will have to re-submit the documents listed above, along with another completed Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). If you have changed your name, you'll also need to bring legal proof of your name change, such as a court order or a marriage certificate.

While replacement Social Security cards are free, the SSA limits the number you can obtain, allowing for:

  • 3 replacements issued in 1 year.
  • 10 replacements issued in a lifetime.

Cards issued after someone legally changes their name or has a change in his or her immigration status do not count toward these totals.

Related Content

Provide Feedback