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ss-5

Your Social Security number is an essential piece of information, used for everything from getting Social Security benefits to opening a bank account. You’ll find your number on your Social Security card, which can also be used as proof of your identity. While most parents get a Social Security card for their children at birth, you might find yourself needing to apply for one – either because it needs to be replaced, or because you never received one in the first place. To do this, you’ll need to fill out Form SS-5. 

What Is Form SS-5?

Form SS-5 is a form from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that allows you to apply for a new or replacement Social Security card.

Your Social Security number is essential to getting a job, getting medical treatment, opening bank accounts, and, of course, receiving Social Security retirement benefits. If your parents didn’t procure one for you, you’ll need the number on your card to go about your life. If you had a card but you lost or damaged it, you’ll need another one so you can verify your number to your employer and others. Either way, you’ll need to use the SS-5 form to get your new card.

The SSA allows you up to three replacement cards each year and 10 replacement cards in your lifetime.

Who Should Fill Out Form SS-5?

There are a number of different situations that would lead you to need a Social Security card. These include:

  • You’ve never received a Social Security card before, and you now need one
  • You’ve misplaced or damaged your old card beyond repair
  • Your old Social Security card has an error, like a misspelled name
  • You have changed from a legal resident to a U.S. citizen
  • You’ve gotten married/divorced and changed your name, so your existing card is now out of date
  • You’ve just given birth to a child, but didn’t apply for a social security card at the hospital
  • You’ve adopted a child and need to procure a card for him or her

 

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How to Fill Out a Form SS-5

You can find a copy of form SS-5 on the SSA website or by visiting your local Social Security office. Once you’ve obtained your copy, you’ll need to complete the form with all relevant information; however, which fields actually need to be filled out will vary, depending on why you’re submitting the form and which information you have available to you. You should endeavor to provide as much information as possible, including your contact information, your date of birth and birth name, your parents’ Social Security numbers and your own original Social Security number (if you know it).

Additionally, you’ll need to provide supporting documents that prove your age, identity and citizenship. This can be a U.S. passport, a birth certificate, a driver’s license or a state-issued ID card. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you can prove your immigration status with a Form I-551, Form I-766 or Form I-94. Note that you can’t just photocopy these documents. You’ll need to send either the original versions of the form, or a copy certified by the custodian of the record.

How to Submit a Form SS-5

In most cases, you’ll have to either mail your form or take it in person to a Social Security office. If you’re mailing in your form, you’ll also have to mail in your supporting documents. This may mean being without these documents for weeks. If you bring your form in person to an office, you can present your identification documents and get them right back. This is why it’s best to visit in person if you can manage it.

You can request a replacement card online through the SSA website in some states. To do this, you must be at least 18 and not be requesting a name change on your replacement card. To see if your state allows online applications, head to the SSA website, scroll down a bit and click on Social Security Number. Note that first-time applicants can’t submit the form online, and if you see a website claiming to do this, it’s likely not an above-board operation.

If you’re applying for your first card and you’re over the age of 12, you’ll have to visit an office in person for an interview. This is because almost all U.S. citizens get a Social Security card shortly after birth (so their parents can claim the child as a dependent on their taxes), so it’s rare that a person was never issued a card. Therefore, the SSA requires an interview to make sure you really have never been issued a card or number before.

What Happens Next

Once you’ve submitted your form and provided your supporting documents, your new card should arrive after roughly 10 business days, according to the SSA website. Once you have your new Social Security card, the process is complete. Make sure to take special care of your card. Keep it in a safe place rather than just in your wallet or purse. That way, you can avoid having to apply for another replacement card in the not-so-distant future.

How to Find Your Social Security Office

Finding the closest Social Security office to you is an easy enough process. Just head to the SSA website and enter your zip code to find your nearest office. In some larger U.S. cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Phoenix, the SSA has offices dedicated specifically to card services and other offices for everything else. If you live in one of these cities, make sure to find your nearest card center.

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Bottom Line

It’s virtually impossible to be a working adult in the U.S. without a Social Security number, and many employers will ask to see your actual Social Security card to verify your identity. Because of this, it’s important to understand the process in place to acquire one, either for the first time or not. Whether you’ve lost your old card, changed your name or never had a card in the first place, Form SS-5 is the only way you can apply to receive one. Luckily, Form SS-5 is the only form you’ll need. Once you complete the form and submit it, you’ll have your card in short order.

Tips for Preparing for Your Retirement

  • If you’re looking to predict what kind of Social Security benefits you can expect once you retire, SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator can be a big help. Just enter your year of birth and your annual income. Then, the calculator will tell you your annual benefit for any age you first elect for benefits.
  • Saving for retirement is a process with a lot of moving parts. Not only do you need to estimate your living costs and potential benefits, but you’ll also need to make sure you’re saving enough between your 401(k), your IRA or cash savings. This is where SmartAsset’s retirement calculator can come in handy. You can enter all your info and get a single monthly savings target.
  • Navigating Social Security can be tricky, and unfortunately, it’s just one aspect of retirement planning. Talking with a financial advisor can significantly ease the burden. SmartAsset’s free advisor matching tool can pair you with up to three qualified advisors in your area. Your advisor can help come up with a retirement plan that makes sense for your situation and your goals.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/mapodile, ©iStock.com/eric1513, ©iStock.com/YinYang

Hunter Kuffel, CEPF® Hunter Kuffel is a personal finance writer with expertise in savings, retirement and investing. Hunter is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and currently lives in New York City.
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