Social Security Card Replacement: What Do You Need?

People often think they need a replacement Social Security number (SSN) card if they cannot find their old one. Replacing a missing Social Security card is easy and free to do but first consider if you really need one. You probably do not.

When you think about it, the card is just a piece of paper, not proof of identity. Knowing your Social Security number is the important part and usually all you will need. Memorize your SSN and you will always have it if needed.

Employer reminder: register with Social Security Business Services Online (BSO) and use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to verify a new employee’s SSN online immediately.

If you reallywant or need to get a replacement card, either for yourself or for a child, you can find all the details at the Social Security website, From the homepage, click on the Numbers & Cards tab and then go to the Social Security Number & Card section. There you select if the SSN card desired is for a child or adult, if the needed card is for an original, replacement or corrected card such as for a name change, and citizenship of the person involved. Each step explains what you need.

 Warning: make sure you are at the genuine Social Security website and not at a private, for profit site. There is no charge for any Social Security number action. To protect your personal ID information, at the genuine website you do not enter your information online. Instead, you print the application for offline completion.

Reading instructions is important. In most cases you simply print, complete and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the correct documents.

What are these documents? They vary with the situation. Learn what documents you specifically need by using the very simple learn what documents you need section of the Social Security Number & Card page.

Doing this will make processing your application go smoothly for both you and SSA. For example, a replacement card for a U.S. born adult requires proof of citizenship, if not previously established on your Social Security number record, and identity. A list of suitable documents is shown, with a U.S. driver’s license being first on the identity list.

Note that the documents you use must be originals or copies certified by the issuing agency and not a photocopy you made or a notarized copy.  

Exceptions apply but usually identity documents must be current and show your name, some other identifying information such as your birthdate and preferably a recent photograph. Based on this, you can readily see that a birth certificate would not be acceptable for adult identity although it could prove citizenship, if needed, while your U.S. passport might be proof of both citizenship and identity. All documents are returned to you.

Social Security number activity is free and as easy as 1-2-3 at

  1. Learn what documents you need
  2. Print and complete the application
  3. Take or mail the completed application to a Social Security office