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How to Get a New Social Security Card

By Selena Maranjian – Mar 14, 2016 at 7:39AM

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If you're wondering how to get a new Social Security card, you've come to the right place.

Image: DonkeyHotey, Flickr.

Most of us get our Social Security card early in life. It can be hard to keep the same card for your whole long life, though. After all -- things like a lost Social Security card happen, and one day you might need a replacement Social Security card. Fortunately, getting a new Social Security card isn't hard.

How to get a new Social Security card really just involves two steps.

Step 1: Learn the rules
The Social Security Administration (SSA) expects occasional lost or stolen cards and stands ready to help you out. You're actually allowed to get as many as three replacement cards in a year. Don't think that you're all set, then, if you're a habitual loser of cards -- because there's a lifetime limit, too, of 10 replacement cards. (The limit doesn't apply if you're getting a new card due to a legal name change or a change in immigration status. It may even be waived if you can demonstrate that you really need a new card.) Another nice aspect of the process is that getting a new card won't cost you anything. (The SSA warns that some businesses will offer to get you a new card for a fee and urges you to avoid them, as they offer the service for free.)

So what will you need in order to get a new Social Security card? Well, you will need several different original documents or certified copies from the agencies that issued them in order to prove a few things. (Note that photocopies you make yourself won't work, and neither will photocopies that have been vouched for by a notary public.)

  • To prove your identity, you'll needa current document with your name, age (or birth date), and, ideally, a photo. A U.S. passport is perfect, as is a U.S. birth certificate. Driver's licenses or state-issued identification cards can also work, as can some other identifying documents.

  • To prove your citizenship, the best kind of document to produce is, just as above, a U.S. passport or a U.S. birth certificate. Either of these can serve to establish both your identity and citizenship. If the Social Security Administration is already aware of your citizenship status, you shouldn'tneed to prove it again.

Image:Frankieleon, Flickr

Step 2: Apply for a new Social Security card
The next, and last, step in how to get a new Social Security card is simply to fill out and submit the Social Security card application. There are three ways to get this done: online, in person, or by mail. The Social Security Administration states that you can only qualify to apply online if you have a "my Social Security" account and you meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address (this includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses).
  • Are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card.
  • Have a valid driver's license or a state-issued identification card from one of the following:
    • District of Columbia (driver's license only).
    • Michigan.
    • Nebraska.
    • Washington.
    • Wisconsin (driver's license only).

If you meet all of the above except for having a my Social Security account, simply create the account online. It will let you take care of other matters relating to Social Security and Medicare, too.

If you don't qualify for the online new-card application, you can just print and fill out the Application for a Social Security Card. Then take application and the required documents to your local Social Security office -- or mail them in.

You may not need a replacement
Of course, for some people, how to get a new Social Security card is not to get one. Despite all the info above, you may not actually need a replacement Social Security card, even if you can't find your original. Your Social Security number is something you'll frequently need to provide, but you will rarely need to produce your card. Indeed, even the Social Security Administration agrees that you shouldn't carry it around with you, lest it get lost and someone uses it for identity-theft or fraud purposes. Instead, store it in a safe place with other important documents.

Still, if you ever find that you need one, you now know how to get a new Social Security card. 

Longtime Fool specialist Selena Maranjian, whom you can follow on Twitter, owns no shares of any company mentioned in this article.  We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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