How Do I Replace a Social Security Card for a Child?

In this article...
  • You can get a free replacement Social Security card for your child. Have the right documents on hand and apply for a replacement online or at your local Social Security office.

The nine-digit Social Security number is the primary identifier for the U.S. government. Along with a birth certificate, a Social Security card is one of the first documents a child’s parents or guardians get to store in a filing cabinet.

Most everyone in the U.S. needs the number to get a job and begin acquiring the credits needed to claim Social Security and other government benefits and services. The number allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to record the child’s earnings once he or she begins working, and to credit the child for retirement benefits once he or she becomes eligible.

SSA recommends that the card be kept in a safe place with other important documents. The card itself is important – but it’s not critical. In fact, for most business transactions, the individual only needs to know their Social Security number. SSA says that a lost card does not always need to be replaced. If the card has been lost you can get a free social security card replacement from the SSA.

To replace your child's Social Security card, follow the simple steps below.

Gather Documents

You must provide SSA with the appropriate documents about the child. These must prove:

The Child's Identity: A document that shows your child’s name, identifying information (date of birth, age or parent’s names), and preferably a photograph, such as:

  • State-issued nondriver’s identification card
  • U.S. passport
  • Adoption decree
  • Doctor, clinic or hospital record
  • Religious record
  • School or daycare center record
  • School identification card

SSA notes that you can use a birth certificate to prove age or citizenship, but you cannot use it as proof of identity. SSA needs evidence that shows the child continues to exist beyond the date of birth.

The Child’s Age: You must submit a U.S. birth certificate if one exists. If a birth certificate does not exist, SSA may be able to accept the child’s:

  • Religious record made before the age of 5 showing the date of birth
  • U.S. hospital record of birth
  • U.S. passport

The Child’s U.S. Citizenship: SSA will accept one of the following documents for your child:

  • U.S. birth certificate
  • U.S. consular report of birth abroad
  • U.S. passport
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship

You must also provide a document showing your name, identifying information and photograph, such as one of the following:

  • U.S. driver’s license
  • State-issued nondriver’s identification card
  • U.S. passport

All of these documents must be either the original document or a certified copy from the issuing agency. SSA will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.

All documents must be current – that is, not expired. SSA may use one document for two purposes. For example, it may use your U.S. passport as proof of both citizenship and identity.

Any documents mailed to SSA will be returned to you along with a receipt.

Complete Forms

After gathering the appropriate documents, you must complete an Application for a Social Security card.

Once completed, take or mail the application and the required documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center. SSA will accept your application and documents and provide you with a receipt.

There is no charge for applying for a new Social Security card.

Receive a New Social Security Card

SSA will mail a new social security card to you as soon as it has reviewed and verified all of the required documents. SSA says you should receive the card within 10 business days from the date on the receipt. The Social Security Card replacement will have the same Social Security number as the previous card.

SSA reminds you that, if you know the child's Social Security number but have lost the card, you may not need to replace the card. Call your local SSA office if you are unsure and want more information.

You can call the SSA toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. Hours are 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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