The short answer is the stock-in-trade reply of 10 business days from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The complete answer is somewhat more detailed. What SSA does not say is that 10 business days is the ideal response time. This assumes that all of the required documents have been provided, that all of the documents are either originals or certified copies and that there is no backlog of replacement card requests already in their system.
To make sure that a replacement card is received in the shortest timeframe possible, an applicant needs to follow the 3 basic steps in the request for a replacement.
(1) Make a list of all the documents needed for identification.
(2) Fill out the correct application form.
(3) Mail the form or take it to the nearest SSA office.
(1) For step 1 above: The SSA will not accept copies of required documents. All documents must be originals or certified copies. There are different requirements for adults and children; for US citizens, for Foreign Born US Citizens; and for Non-Citizens.
(2) For step 2 above: The application forms can be found on the SSA website. For applications filed within the US use Form SS-5 at www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf. For applications filed outside the US use Form SS-5-FS at www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5fs-pdf.
(3) For step 3 above: Getting a replacement card can be started online by filing out the appropriate form, but the printed form must still be mailed or hand carried with the required documents to the nearest SSA office. There is a list of all offices on the SSA website at www.ssa.gov/ssnumber.
(1) When hand delivered, an SSA employee can inform the applicant if all the necessary documents are included and in the required condition. This method will help to reduce the waiting time for a replacement card.
(2) When mailing an application, it is recommended that the package be insured because of the personal documents inside. This method may add a few days to the process.
(3) Replacement cards are free from the SSA.
(4) If there is a backlog for replacement cards, the waiting time may take from 4 to 6 weeks.
(5) If a card is needed quickly for employment or a legal matter, the SSA will provide a letter stating the replacement application has been filed and the letter can be used until the replacement card is received.