Social Security Card FAQs

Who can obtain a Social Security Card?

The Social Security Administration issues Social Security number (SSN) cards to:

  • U.S. citizens;
  • Noncitizens lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence;
  • Noncitizens with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permission to work permanently in the United States (e.g., refugees and asylees);
  • Noncitizens with DHS permission to work temporarily in the United States; and
  • Noncitizens who do not have DHS permission to work in the United States, but are required by law to provide an SSN to get general assistance benefits for which they already qualify.

Who can fill out the application for my child’s Social Security card?

If you are the biological, adoptive or stepparent with custody/responsibility for your child, you may file an Application for a Social Security Card for your child.  Your child may also file an Application for a Social Security Card on his or her own behalf if physically and mentally capable of completing an in-person interview or paper application for a Social Security card.  However, if the child has a court-appointed legal guardian, the legal guardian is the only person who can file for a Social Security number for the child.

How do parents apply for their minor children’s U.S. passport?

Parents must complete an application for their child’s U.S. passport. Application form DS-11 can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds11/ds11_842.html.

How do I apply for my child’s Social Security card?

Parents who wish to apply for a Social Security card for their child must complete an application.  You may either:

  • Complete, sign and mail a Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card) to a Social Security office ; or
  • Visit a Social Security office and file an application electronically. 

You can find Form SS-5 at http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf).  To find a local Social Security Administration office, visit https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp.

Parents of newborns may also apply for a social security card as part of the hospital birth registration process.

What kind of supporting documents do we need to apply for our child’s first Social Security card?

If parents do not complete an SSN application for their newborn as part of the hospital birth registration process, they must submit supporting documents for their child at an SSA office.  Parents must submit original documents or documents certified by the issuing agency proving the child’s U.S. citizenship (birth certificate or passport); age (birth certificate or passport); and identity for the child.  The parent completing the application must also show proof of his or her own identity as well as proof of his or her relationship to the child (birth certificate or adoption papers).

To prove the child’s identity:  The Social Security Administration must see a picture ID that shows the child’s biographical information, or a non-picture ID that has enough information to identify the child. Children who are age 12 and older must accompany the parents to the office (see below for more information).

For the purposes of identification, the child’s passport or U.S. State issued non-driver identity card is preferred. However, if the child does not have a passport or U.S. State issued non-driver identity card, the Social Security Administration may accept the child’s adoption decree; a certified doctor, clinic, or hospital record; a religious record (e.g. baptismal record); a certified daycare or school record; or school identification card.

A birth certificate cannot be used to prove a child’s identity, even though it can be used to prove citizenship and age. Social Security Administration needs evidence showing the child continues to exist beyond the day of birth.

To prove the parent’s identity:  Parental proof of identity is also required. Accepted documents include:  parent’s U.S. passport, U.S. driver’s license, or a State issued identification card. If these documents are not available, the parent may present an employee ID card, a school ID card, a health insurance card, or a U.S. military card.

The Social Security Administration cannot accept notarized or uncertified photocopies of documents, nor can they accept notarized or uncertified extracts of records.  In addition, each document must contain sufficient information to contact the custodian to verify the authenticity of the document. 

All documents you submit must be original records, certified photocopies of original records, or certified extracts of original records.  A photocopy or extract is certified if it includes a statement by the custodian of the record saying that the document is authentic and accurate and shows the custodian’s signed or stamped signature; or the custodian attaches his or her seal of office to the document. 

Computer-generated signatures are acceptable on computer-generated birth certificates issued by the custodian of the records. 

For more information on the required documents, visit http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm

If my child is age 12 or older and applying for his or her first Social Security card, are there different requirements?

YES. If your child is age 12 or older, and you are applying for the first time, in addition to the above requirements, the child must appear in person for an in-person interview with the Social Security Administration and show documents supporting allegations that he or she was never assigned a Social Security number.  For more information regarding the exact documentation needed, visit http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm

Can my same-sex partner and I both be listed on the Application for a Social Security Card as parents?

YES, if both parents’ names are shown on the child’s birth certificate. The 08-2011 version of Form SS-5 allows both parents, regardless of their sex, to be listed as parents. The old form asked for the name of the “father” and the “mother” of an applicant, which didn’t recognize the current family structures in the United States. The new Form SS-5 asks for the name of “parent/mother” and for the name of the “parent/father,” better recognizing the diversity in family formations.   The Social Security Administration also needs the Social Security numbers for the parents listed on the application.

Can a person who is not the child’s legal parent be listed on the Application for a Social Security Card?

NO. Unfortunately, only legal parents can be listed on the Application for a Social Security Card. The majority of states do not allow the names of non-legal parents on the child’s birth certificate. If you live in a state where a non-legal parent (for example, a second parent who has not completed an adoption) is named as a parent on the birth certificate, that parent may also include his or her name on the Application for a Social Security card.

Do I need to provide any further documentation (e.g. adoption papers) due to the fact that my child’s parents are the same sex?

NO. As long as both parents’ names are shown on the child’s birth certificate, the Social Security Administration requires no further documentation. 

My wife is the biological mother of our son and I have adopted him. Can we show both of our names on the Application for a Social Security Card?

YES. If both parents are named on the child’s birth certificate, both names can be shown on the application. If the adoptive parent is not listed on the birth certificate, Social Security will also need to see the court ordered adoption decree for the adoptive parent’s name to be shown on the application.

My husband adopted our daughter, but I cannot adopt her in the state where we live. Can both of our names be on the Application for a Social Security card?

NO. Unfortunately, only the parent who has adopted the child and is named on the child’s birth certificate can be shown on the Application for a Social Security Card. 

What if my partner is out of the country? Can I apply for our child’s Social Security number?

Yes, if you meet the filing and evidence requirements described above.   

I have questions and concerns, is there a number I can call for assistance?

YES. You can call the Social Security Administration at: 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TDD/TTY). A representative will be able to assist you Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (EST) and an automated system is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can also visit: www.socialsecurity.gov.

If you experience any difficulties applying for a Social Security Card for your child, please contact Emily Hecht-McGowan, Director of Public Policy, at ehecht@familyequality.org