How to Replace a Social Security Card

In this article...
  • You can get a replacement Social Security card for free. Our review will help you make sure you have the right documents on hand to apply for a replacement online or at your local Social Security office.

You have a number. Some people get this number before they get their name. It is, of course, your Social Security number.

This nine-digit number is your first entry into the U.S. government system, specifically Social Security. You need a Social Security number to get a job, claim Social Security benefits and receive some other government services. The number identifies you for, among other things, recording your wages or self-employment earnings and to monitor your benefits once you become eligible.

The number is recorded on your Social Security card, which is one of the most important documents you will collect in your lifetime. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends you keep the card in a safe place, with your other important papers. Don’t carry the card with you, and avoid giving out your number unless it is absolutely necessary.

The card itself is important, but it’s not critical for most transactions. Just knowing your Social Security number is enough, so a lost card does not always need to be replaced.

But if you do need a replacement, here’s how.

How to Apply for a Replacement Card Online

You can create and use a My Social Security account to apply for a replacement Social Security card online if you:

  • Are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address (including an APO, FPO or DPO address)
  • Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card
  • Have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from one of the participating states or the District of Columbia

Some states have different rules. In Delaware and Wisconsin, this service is available only if you have a driver’s license. If your driver’s license or state-issued identification card was issued by one of the states listed below, this service is not yet available. 

  • Alaska
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia

The SSA says to check back later if you live in one of those states, as they are working to make this online service available to those states.

Additionally, this service is also not yet available if your driver’s license or identification card was issued by a U.S. territory, including American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Finally, if you are a U.S. citizen and you have not gotten a replacement Social Security card or had a name change recently, you may not be eligible to use the online replacement card application.

What Documents Do You Need?

In order to apply for a replacement Social Security card, you will need some important documents to prove:

  • U.S. citizenship
    You must show proof of your U.S. citizenship with a U.S. birth certificate or a U.S. passport.

  • Your age
    You must show proof of your age with a birth certificate, U.S. hospital birth record, U.S. passport or religious record made before the age of 5.

  • Your identity
    You must prove your identity showing a U.S. driver's license, state-issued ID card, U.S. passport or employee ID card, school ID card, military ID card or health insurance card (but not a Medicare card).

You must submit either original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency. The SSA will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. All of the documents must be up to date; the SSA will not accept expired documents or receipts showing application for these documents.

If you don’t have the original or certified documents, you can find out where to get a certificate of birth, marriage or divorce that took place in the United States from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics.  

How to Set Up a My Social Security Account

To set up a My Social Security account, go to the My Social Security web page. https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount

To open the account, you must:

  • Have a valid email address
  • Have a Social Security number
  • Have a U.S. mailing address
  • Be at least 18 years of age

You can only create an account using your own personal information. You should not create an account using another person's information or identity, even if you have that person's written permission.

For example, you cannot create an account for another person:

  • With whom you have a business relationship
  • For whom you are a representative payee
  • For whom you are an appointed representative

You can request a replacement Social Security card online if you are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address. You must also have a driver's license or a state-issued identification card from one of the states listed above.

If you do not meet these requirements, print out the application and take it, along with the original documents you need, to your local SSA office. The online application site will link to a page where you can find the closest SSA office in your area. You can also submit your application using an online form, provided you meet certain criteria outlined below.

Other Ways to Replace Your Social Security Card

You can also apply for a replacement card by visiting a local SSA office or through the mail. You can find your closest local SSA office here. Or call the SSA’s toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213.

You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime, with a few exceptions. A legal name change or change in immigration status that requires card updates, for example, do not count against the limit.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Replacement Social Security Card?

SSA says it will mail your new Social Security card “as soon as we have all of the necessary information.” It adds that, because of slight delays processing mail-in Social Security card applications, it may take between two and four weeks to process the application and return your documents.

Free Social Security Services

The SSA warns people that some businesses offer Social Security name changes or cards for a fee. Social Security provides those services and more for free. So don’t pay for something you can get free of charge.

If you have any questions or need more information about requesting a replacement Social Security card, call the toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your Social Security office. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

About the Author

David Levine is an award-winning writer and editor whose work has been featured in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated, American Heritage, U.S. News & World Report and others.

David has covered health, health insurance and health policy topics – among many others – since 2017. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Rochester and currently lives in Albany, New York.

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