If you want to work, open a checking or savings account at a bank, or apply for government benefits, you need a Social Security number. The unique identifying number printed on the card that you get from the Social Security Administration has become an essential part of life in America, so what happens if you lose the card?
While government agencies and businesses asking for your Social Security number happens on an almost daily basis, they rarely, if ever, ask to see your Social Security card. Remembering your Social Security number is usually enough when anyone asks for it, so replacing a card that your family dog mistook for treatment may not be necessary.
If you need or want to get a replacement Social Security card, here is what you need to do along with information about how to make changes to your Social Security records. We’ll also explain how to correct your Social Security records to reflect a change of name, correct a mistake in your date of birth, or change your Gender identification.
Facts about your Social Security number
The first Social Security numbers were issued in 1936 following the creation of the retirement and disability benefits programs created by the Social Security Act a year earlier. Issuing a unique identifying number to people allowed the Social Security Administration to maintain accurate earnings records for all workers, including the payroll taxes paid on those earnings.
An identifier consisting of nine digits was settled upon as the Social Security number that has now been in use in the U.S. for 87 years. Its original purpose of tracking earnings, taxes, and benefits has greatly expanded over the years to now be issued at birth and used by financial institutions, government agencies, and businesses for identification and as a means of tracking a person’s financial history.
Getting a Social Security number for the first time
The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses information from state bureaus of vital statistics about birth registrations to automatically issue a Social Security number and issue a card within two weeks or so of the birth of a child. A person who did not have a Social Security number issued at birth may complete an application for one through the SSA.
A parent or guardian may apply on behalf of a child younger than 12 years of age. Anyone applying for a Social Security number and card for the first time who is at least 12 years old must appear for an in-person interview.
First-time applications for a Social Security number and the card must be accompanied by original or government-certified copies of documents proving the following:
- U.S. citizenship or immigration status
If you are not applying for a Social Security number for the first time, there is another process to use to replace a lost, damaged, or stolen card.
How to get a replacement Social Security card
You may be able to get a replacement SSD card simply by completing an application if you already have a Social Security number. You may be able to submit your application online rather than in person depending on your answers to the following questions:
- Are you at least 18 years old?
- Are you a U.S. citizen?
- Do you have a mailing address in the U.S.?
- Are you applying for yourself?
- Are you applying for a replacement card?
- Are you using a driver’s license as a form of identification?
- Which state issued the driver’s license?
Depending upon the answers that you give to each of the questions, you will be told to continue with the online process, or you will be advised that you must submit the application in person.
Different types of Social Security cards
When you need to get a replacement SSD card, the SSA will issue one of the following three types of cards depending on the information that you provided in the application:
- A card showing your name and Social Security number that has no restrictions on it. This card is issued to U.S. citizens or people who hold lawful permanent resident status.
- A card with your name and Social Security number issued to non-citizens temporarily admitted into the U.S. who have been issued authority to work by the Department of Homeland Security.
- A card with your name and Social Security number that is marked as “not valid for employment.”
You can also request a replacement of a previously issued card to update or correct information in your records, including:
- Name, which may have changed through marriage or a legal change of name proceeding.
- Sex identification
- Date of birth
As previously mentioned, unless you need to change personal information, you may not need to get a replacement Social Security card as long as you remember your Social Security number.