What Do I Do If I Lost My Social Security Card?

While the Social Security card itself is not as important as simply remembering your Social Security number, there are instances in which having the card on hand is not only helpful but necessary.

You may replace your Social Security card up to three times in one year and up to ten times in your lifetime. Exceptions to this rule include for a legal name change, citizenship status change or if you need to get the card to prevent significant personal hardship.


Gather Identity Documents

To get a new Social Security card, you will need to prove that you are who you say you are. Acceptable identity documents include originals or certified copies of:

  • S. Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • State I.D. card


If these are unavailable, other acceptable identity documents include:

  • Health insurance or Medicaid card
  • S. military I.D.
  • S. Government I.D.
  • Certificate of naturalization
  • Certificate of citizenship
  • Certified medical or academic records
  • Life insurance policy


Prove Your U.S. Citizenship Or Authorization Status

Only U.S. citizens and legal immigrants may receive a Social Security card. In order to replace your lost Social Security card, you need to prove your legal status. 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.

Common citizenship documents used include originals or certified copies of:

  • S. passport
  • S. birth certificate
  • S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship


If you are not a citizen, you need to show that you are permitted to live and work in the United States to replace your Social Security card. Required documents include one of the following:

  • Green card
  • Employment authorization card
  • Work permit from DHS


SSN Card Replacement

If you lost or misplaced your Social Security card, a replacement card from the Social Security Administration (SSA) is free. The one thing that cannot be changed is your Social Security Number (SSN.) Each person is issued one SSN in a lifetime.

  1. Fill out a SSA Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, found at www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf . The form is used for new, replacement and name change cards. The information you’ll need includes things like your name and SSN and other identifying information, like your parents’ names and parents’ SSNs.
  2. Submit the form with one official, original or certified, document that verifies your identify. The document are listed above but include things like your birth certificate and driver’s license.
  3. Mail the form and document to the SSA in Baltimore, MD or take the information to a local SSA office. There is an online SSN office locator you can use, or you can call 1-800-772-1213 to get the address of a local office. 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. 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.

How Long do You Have to Wait for a Replacement Social Security Card?

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.

If there is a backlog for replacement cards, the waiting time may take from 4 to 6 weeks.

However, if you need the card 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.


Anti-Identity Theft Actions

In addition to getting a new card, there are other pro-active measures to help reduce any possibility of identity theft.

Credit cards, bank accounts, checking accounts, and most other forms of personal identity can be re-issued with new account numbers; everything except your SSN. To help guard against the possibility that an identity thief gains access to your social security card, you can take some preventative measures.

  1. Enroll in an identity theft monitoring program.
  2. Notify your financial institutions; monitor your accounts; request new accounts if you suspect any unusual transactions.
  3. While there are three national credit reporting firms, you only need to report a fraud alert to one of the firms. In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission, that one firm you call is required to inform the other two companies. After reporting a fraud alert, you will have up to 90 days to request a free credit report from all three firms. Step-by-step instructions on how to place a fraud alert is available at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert.

Once you have taken all recommended actions, you might want to routinely monitor your financial reports for unusual activity and to keep your social security card in a safe location at home or in a safe deposit container with other sensitive documents.

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