One of the most important identifying numbers for U.S. citizens and U.S. residents is the Social Security number. This nine-digit number is used by the U.S. government to keep track of years worked, lifetime earnings, federal aid, Social Security death benefits, and so on. This number is legally required to begin work, and it’s a vital part of the tax and credit process.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Why Get a Social Security Number for Your Child?
- Step 1: Complete a Birth Registration Form
- Step 2: Visit the Social Security Office
- Step 3: Wait for Your Child’s Card
- Step 4: Store Your Child’s Card Safely
- What About Adopted Children?
- How to Replace Your Child’s Social Security Card?
When you have a baby, one of the first steps is securing their necessary legal documents. This includes filing for a Social Security number for your child. This is something you’ll need to add your baby to your health insurance, get tax credits, and open a bank account for them.
In other words, it’s how you ensure the country recognizes your baby. Like most things involving government paperwork, this isn’t always an easy process. Keep reading to discover the steps needed to get a Social Security number for your newborn baby.
Why Get a Social Security Number for Your Child?
In light of recent data concerns, many people might wonder why you need a Social Security number for your child in the first place. It’s not required legally, yet many parents apply for this number before leaving the hospital. As we mentioned above, this is an important legal number to have on hand.
The most common reason to apply for this number for your child is for tax purposes. If you want to claim your child on your federal income tax, you’ll need to provide their Social Security number. They’re treated the same as any other dependent.
However, this isn’t the only reason to secure this number. Other common reasons include:
- Health insurance for your child
- Bank or savings account for your child
- Savings bonds for your child
- Government benefits or services
- Beneficiary purposes if you start end-of-life planning
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to start this process for your child. Applying for a Social Security number for a newborn or even an adopted child is easier than you think. With just a few short steps, there’s no reason not to get a number for your child.
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Step 1: Complete a Birth Registration Form
The easiest way to apply for your child’s Social Security number is at the hospital. After your child is born, one of the parents needs to complete what’s known as a birth registration form. This is how you’ll secure your child’s birth certificate.
The hospital typically gives this form while the mother is still a patient, but you are always free to ask for one yourself during your hospital stay. On the birth registration form, there’s a box to check to request a Social Security number for your child.
Step 2: Visit the Social Security Office
While the easiest way to secure your child’s Social Security number is through the hospital paperwork above, not all babies are born at the hospital. Many babies are born at home or in another type of facility. Alternatively, some parents don’t receive a birth request form from the hospital for some reason or another.
If any of the above applies to you, your Social Security Administration office is where you go to apply for your child’s number. At your local Social Security office, you’ll need the following:
- Form SS-5 - This is the Application for Social Security Number. You can fill this out in advance or at the office. It’s available on the Social Security Administration’s website.
- Medical documents - You’ll need at least two documents proving the age of your baby, their identity, and citizenship status. This is typically your child’s birth certificate and medical records.
- Parent identification - Finally, bring proof of your own identity. This is usually your driver’s license or passport. You must provide at least two separate documents.
You can apply for your documents in person or by mail. Because you’ll need to provide official or certified copies of your documents, it’s usually easier to apply in person. There is no charge for a Social Security card.
Step 3: Wait for Your Child’s Card
Once you’ve applied either through the hospital or your local Social Security Administration office, it’s time to wait for your child’s card. This takes anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks. The processing time varies by state.
If your child is over a year old, this process might take even longer. Because the Social Security Administration needs to contact your state’s department of statistics to confirm your child's birth certificate is valid, this is a longer process.
Step 4: Store Your Child’s Card Safely
Finally, once you’ve received your child’s Social Security number, keep their card somewhere secure. Identity fraud is a real threat, so make sure you have somewhere safe to keep the card secure. You’ll need this number for tax forms, benefits, and other government documents.
It’s smart to keep this with your other important documents. Preferably, store it in an easy to secure safe or another storage system. Learn more about how long to keep documents for more information on how to secure legal and government documents.
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What About Adopted Children?
If you’re adopting a child or baby, you might be wondering what steps to take to get a Social Security number. The good news is if you’re adopting a U.S. citizen, odds are they already have a Social Security number. Your adoption agency should provide more information about their documentation and legal status.
If your adopted infant does not have a number, you’ll need an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). You’ll use to apply for tax benefits while the adoption is pending. This is valid for 2 years and is extendable if the adoption is still not finalized. Once the adoption is legal, you’ll follow the same steps above to apply for a Social Security number.
Finally, if you’re adopting a child from another country, the process is similar. Again, you need to wait until the adoption is finalized. From there, you can use the same process with the Social Security Administration office.
How to Replace Your Child’s Social Security Card?
Securing your child’s Social Security card is an important step in the process, but accidents do happen. If your child’s card is lost or stolen, replacements are easy and free. It’s important to note that you don’t need the physical card. While it’s helpful to have, it’s more important to know the number. It rarely needs to be physically shown.
To apply for a replacement card for your child, follow these simple steps:
- Gather your child’s documents - First, secure documents proving your child’s identity, citizenship, or immigration status. This could be their passport, birth certificate, or other medical records.
- Gather your documents - Next, gather your own documents. You’ll need to prove your identity and your relationship to your child.
- Complete the application form - Fill out the application form from the Social Security Administration. This is the same form (SS-5) used when applying for the initial card.
- Submit the form - Either file the form in person at a local Social Security office or mail it to your local center. All documents need to be submitted with the form, and they need to be original or certified.
From there, your local office verifies your documents and application. Your card should be received within ten business days of the date on your receipt. The number on the card is the same as your child’s previous card.
Secure Your Child’s Social Security Number
Having a Social Security number is an important part of legal life in the United States. While most government forms and paperwork are a challenge, the Social Security number process for newborns and young children is straightforward. In fact, most parents complete the paperwork before leaving the hospital.
If you’re preparing for the birth of a child, review these steps above. Knowing what to expect helps you ensure you get your child’s number quickly and easily. When in doubt, contact your local Social Security Administration office.
- “How do I replace a Social Security card for a child?” Social Security Administration. FAQ.SSA.gov.
- “How long does it take to get my baby's Social Security card that I applied for in the hospital?” Social Security Administration. FAQ.SSA.gov.
- “Social Security Numbers for Children.” Social Security Administration. SSA.gov.