April is National Social Security Month! Your Social Security Number (SSN) may be your most important piece of identification – yet it’s likely that you never carry your Social Security card with you. You probably committed your number to memory long ago because it’s required in so many places.
Generally, you won’t need to produce your Social Security card, and it’s not recommended that you carry such an important document with you at all times – but could you produce your Social Security card if you had to? There are a few occasions where you may need to present your actual Social Security card, such as proof of identification for a new employer.
If you can’t find your Social Security card, don’t worry – you can order a replacement card from the Social Security Administration (SSA). You will need to provide a suitable form of identification such as a U.S. driver’s license, a U.S. passport, or a suitable state non-driver identification card. If Social Security has no record of your citizenship status and you are using identification other than a valid U.S. passport, you will need to provide a birth certificate.
If you are missing one of the documents listed above and can’t acquire a suitable replacement within ten working days, the SSA may accept alternate identification such as a U.S. Military ID card, employee ID card, or health insurance card. Contact your local SSA office if you are unsure about suitable identification.
All identification documents must be non-expired originals or certified copies from the original issuing agency. Photocopies or notarized documents are not allowed.
After you’ve collected the necessary documents, download the Social Security card application from the SSA website. Fill out the application and either take the application and supporting documents to your local Social Security office or mail them to the correct Social Security Center that handles your area. Use the Social Security Office Locator for more details.
Once your application is fully approved, your replacement Social Security card should show up in the mail within ten business days.
Note that the Social Security Administration replaces your card free of charge. There’s no reason to pay third parties a fee to acquire your replacement Social Security card for you.
In 24 states and the District of Columbia, you can apply for a replacement card online by setting up an account at the my Social Security website as long as you are a U.S. citizen, you are at least 18 years old, you have a valid U.S. mailing address, and your replacement card does not incorporate a name change or any other change.
You are limited to ten replacement cards over your lifetime, and are limited to three in any one year. However, replacement cards due to a name change don’t count toward the limit, and other exceptions such as immigration status changes may not count toward your limit either.
Most people will get nowhere near these limits – and if you simply keep it with all your other important papers in a protected place such as a lockbox or safe, you’ll never have to worry about ordering a replacement card at all. Instead, focus on the more important task of keeping your Social Security number out of the hands of identity thieves.
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