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How to get a Social Security number

If you have a child in the United States, he or she can get a Social Security number (SSN) virtually at birth. At the hospital, while giving information for the birth certificate, you can simultaneously apply for the baby’s Social Security number. You'll be asked for both parents’ Social Security numbers, but if you don't have them you can still apply.

If you decide to wait until later, you'll need to fill out an SS-5, the application form for a Social Security card, and mail it to your local Social Security office along with at least two original documents proving your child’s U.S. citizenship, age and identity.

You’ll find a list of acceptable documents in the Social Security Administration (SSA) pamphlet “Social Security Numbers for Children.” If the child is 12 or older, he or she must appear at a Social Security office for an interview. In-person services at local offices are strictly limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, but SSA is prioritizing appointment requests for people 12 and over applying for their first Social Security card.

Non-U.S. citizens can get a Social Security number provided they are in the country legally. If you have permanent residency, you’ll be issued the same type of Social Security card that citizens get. You will need to show proof of identity and your authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to live and work in the country.

Two types of limited Social Security numbers are available to noncitizens who do not have permanent residency:

  • If you have temporary permission to live and work in the United States, you can get a Social Security card stamped “valid for work only with DHS authorization."
  • If you do not plan to work but need a Social Security number for another reason — for example, to apply for government benefits or services — your card will be stamped "not valid for employment."

Incoming immigrants can apply for a Social Security number from their home country as part of the visa application process. If you are already in the United States, you will need to visit a Social Security office. The pamphlet “Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens” has more information on how, when and where to apply. 

Keep in mind

You can ask Social Security to assign you a new number under limited circumstances, for example if you are a victim of domestic violence or identify theft. You can only apply for a new number in person at a Social Security office. These are closed to walk-in visits due to the pandemic, but you may be able to schedule an appointment for what SSA calls "dire need" situations. Call 800-772-1213 to learn more.

Updated June 2, 2021

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