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4 Steps To Getting A Social Security Number

All US citizens, permanent residents, and even those only temporarily residing in the United States can get a social security number (SSN). You may not have known that. As it turns out, social security numbers are open to more people than you think.social security number

My family has hosted international high school students for the last several years. We just helped one of them get a social security number so that she could obtain her driver’s license. She’s going to college in the states next year, so being able to drive is very important to her. Having that social security number helped expedite the process.

Social security numbers are of course very useful in business transactions with both federal and state government agencies. Even those who aren’t working would find it very convenient to have their own SSN. But there are some steps to go through to get one though. If you weren’t granted one at birth for some reason or are a foreigner to the United States, it will take a little bit of time.

For starters, you’ll have to submit an application to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Your number, once issued, usually comes with a corresponding social security card. So, if you want to know more information about getting and laminating a social security card, you might want to read on. 

Steps to Getting a Social Security Number

The typical steps on how to get an SSN are as follows:

Find Out the Requirements 

To get an SSN, you must first make sure you are qualified to get one. Not everyone is eligible. 

The SSA requires certain documents to avoid identity theft where individuals use your identity to get a SSN on your behalf and use it for their own purposes. A few of the requirements you have to list are:

  • Proof of Citizenship
  • Proof of Age
  • Evidence of Identity

Social security number refers to the number assigned by the US government to all of its citizens of age and all qualified US residents. One of the purposes of having an SSN is for the government to track the earnings of every American citizen and US resident. It’s also the same reference number assigned to provide social security benefits upon retirement. 

Related Content: 6 Financial and Emotional Considerations Before You Retire Early

In recent years, the SSN has also been used to identify individuals to verify their tax liabilities and payments. Financial institutions and private companies have also used it to track credit evaluations and reports. So it has many uses that are a benefit to you. 

Prepare Your Documents

The SSA discourages people applying for an SSN from mailing in their original primary documents to any of their field offices. Examples of original important documents that you shouldn’t mail in are passports, driver’s licenses, or immigration documents such as permanent resident cards.

Instead, the SSA advises the general public to mail in their secondary proof of identity such as ID cards and other documents that aren’t considered primary materials or sensitive documents.

The following are some of the documents you have to prepare:

  • Proof of citizenship/residency, such as a US passport or residency card
  • Proof of age, such as a Certificate of Birth
  • Evidence of identity, such as an identification (ID) card 

The SSA gives other options to those applying for an SSN on how to send in their documents. Some of these include drop boxes or setting an appointment for an express interview. 

Present Your Paperwork

You’ll be required by the SSA to present the original documents of the requirements for getting an SSN. You can also present copies of these documents. However, if doing so, they should be marked certified by the agency that issued the document. 

The SSA won’t accept documents that are merely photocopies or scanned and printed copies of the originals, even if you have these notarized. The documents should be valid and current, with an expiration date that hasn’t lapsed. Neither will the SSA accept a receipt showing that you already applied for the document. Receipts, even if issued by the proper government agency, aren’t accepted as a substitute for the original or certified copy of the document itself.

Here are the documents that you have to present as original or certified copies:

  • Proof of US Citizenship. This can be a US passport or US birth certificate.
  • Proof of Age. All applicants are required to present their birth certificate as proof that they are already of age to apply for an SSN.

If the applicant doesn’t have a birth certificate or it was lost somehow, they can submit other documents, such as US hospital record of the applicant’s birth, US passport, or records of a religious organization proving the applicant’s date of birth. This document should’ve been issued before the applicant turned five years old.

Any person 12 years or older will be required to appear in person for an interview when they file a request for an original SSN. The SSA will require them to show proof that they don’t have an SSN yet.

The following are some of the documents applicants can submit to prove that they’ve never had an SSN before they filed a request:

  • Applicants who lived outside of the United States for an extended period before coming over may submit other documents. These could include a current or previous passports, school records, employment documents, and other records that show they lived outside the United States for some time.
  • For applicants who have always been residents of the United States, they might be required by the SSA to submit copies of their tax records. They might also be asked to provide information about the schools they attended
  • Proof of Identity. All applicants will also be required to submit their proof of identity. The document offered as evidence of identity should be current, with an expiration date that hasn’t lapsed. It should contain the applicant’s name, with a photograph recently taken, and pertinent information that could identify the applicant such as date of birth and age. Here are some examples of accepted proof of identity:
    • US passport
    • US driver’s license
    • Non-driver identification card issued by the applicant’s state 

If the applicant can’t provide any of these documents as primary proof of identity and can’t get a certified copy of any of them within the next 10 days, they’ll be required to present other documents as proof of identity. The secondary or replacement documents should be valid and current, and indicate the applicant’s full name, date of birth, and age. It should also have a photograph of the applicant taken recently. Some examples of accepted replacement documents to prove identity could be:

  • US military ID card
  • Health insurance card (which shouldn’t be a Medicare card)
  • Company or employee’s ID card
  • School ID card

Submit Your Filled-Out Application Form

To get an SSN, you still need to fill out the Form SS-5 issued by the SSA. This form is also called Application for Social Security Card. This form includes a request for the corresponding social security card. 

This is the same form that applicants have to fill out to obtain an original card, ask for a replacement of their card, and ask for corrections or changes to their SSN records. Applicants don’t have to pay anything to get this form or to submit their application. When they’ve been submitted, the SSA will process the documents and mail the SSN and corresponding cards. This usually takes anywhere from two to four weeks.


Anyone living in the United States who is of the right age and can submit the requirements can get an SSN. It’s very useful in doing transactions with businesses and banks, as well as with both federal and state government agencies. Your life in the U.S. will run much more smoothly if you have one. 

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: What has been your experience with trying to obtain a SSN? Did it run smoothly enough? Were there any obstacles you had to face in the application process? 

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