Many people find they need to change or correct their Social Security information when they get married or divorced and change their names. Or they need a replacement Social Security card when they realize they’ve lost their original one or it's been stolen. Here is how to deal with either of those situations.

Key Takeaways

  • If you want to request a new Social Security card to replace a lost one, you may be eligible to complete the process entirely online.
  • If you want to change your name or other information with Social Security, you'll need to fill out a form and submit supporting documents.
  • In the latter case, you can complete the process by mail or in person at a local Social Security office.

How to Request a Social Security Card Replacement

If all you need is a replacement Social Security card, with no other changes, you can simply request a new card online at the Social Security website. You'll need to be a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address and will have to supply information from a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from a participating state or the District of Columbia.

Currently, every state but Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and West Virginia participates in this program. If you're from Alaska, Delaware, and Wisconsin, note that Social Security will only accept a driver's license.

This service is not yet available to people whose driver’s license or identification card was issued by a U.S. territory, such as Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Note that a new Social Security card can also be requested by filling out the application and returning it via mail to dropping it off at the local Social Security Administration office. Or applicants can go to the local Social Security Administration office and fill out an application there.

How to Request a Social Security Card With a Different Name

The steps to update your card after a name change are similar to those for applying for a card in the first place. You'll need to fill out the Social Security Administration’s Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security Card and gather supporting documents to prove your age, identity, and citizenship status.

Form SS-5 is a one-page form with 18 items. Most of these items should be easy for you to complete. This form can be printed and filled out by hand or filled out on a PDF form and then printed.

Steps to Complete Form SS-5

Here's how to complete the 18 items on the form:

  1. Provide your first name, full middle name, and last name as you want them shown on the card. If you had a different name at birth or previously went by another name, provide those here, as well.
  2. If you previously had a Social Security number, write it here. If not, leave this section blank.
  3. Enter the city and state or foreign country where you were born.
  4. Provide the month, date, and year you were born.
  5. Check the appropriate box to indicate whether you are a U.S. citizen, legal alien allowed to work, legal alien not allowed to work, or “other.” If you fall into one of the latter two categories, you’ll need to submit extra documentation with your Form SS-5 because, as a non-citizen, the government won’t give you a Social Security card unless you can prove that you need one. In that case, you may want to contact the Social Security Administration beforehand to see if you qualify for a number and ask what documentation is required in your situation.
  6. You don’t have to fill out items 6 or 7, which relate to ethnicity and race. But if you want to help with the government’s informational and statistical analysis of SS-5 form users, you can ...
  7. Check the boxes that apply to you.
  8. Do you identify as male or as female? Check the appropriate box. (Those are the only two choices on the current version of the form.)
  9. Provide the names and Social Security numbers (if any) for each of your birth parents, or check the “unknown” boxes if you don’t have this information.
  10. If you’re applying for the card on behalf of a minor, you must supply the parents’ Social Security numbers unless they were never issued one.
  11. Have you ever filed for or received a Social Security card before? Or, if you’re applying on behalf of someone else, has that person ever filed for or received a Social Security card? Check the appropriate box: yes, no, or don’t know. (Otherwise, you can skip to item 14.)
  12. If your answer to item 11 was yes, you’ll need to answer questions 12 and 13, providing the name associated with the previous card and ...
  13. That person's date of birth if different from the one you supplied in item 4.
  14. Provide today’s date.
  15. List a phone number at which someone from the Social Security Administration can call you during the day.
  16. Give the mailing address where you want your new card to arrive.
  17. Sign the form.
  18. This item asks whether you filled out the form for yourself or someone else. If you’re filling out this form for yourself, check “self.” This step exists to help prevent confusion, for example, in a situation where John Smith is filling out the form for his son, also named John Smith. If you’re filling out this form for someone else, check the box that identifies how you’re related to them.

Documents to Include With Form SS-5

Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to gather the documents you’re required to submit along with it to prove your identity, age, and citizenship status—those of the person you’re applying for a card on behalf of—or both. These documents typically include the following:

  • An original birth certificate or other permissible proof of age, such as a passport, final adoption decree, or religious record of birth. 
  • An unexpired driver’s license, passport, or state ID card to prove your identity, or if you don’t have one of those, a military ID, employee ID, or another identity card.
  • Additional evidence of citizenship, if you are not submitting a birth certificate or ID. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, you'll need evidence of immigration status.

The Social Security Administration will only accept originals or copies that are certified by the agency that issued the original. You can’t use photocopies, even notarized ones.

If you plan to mail your documents to the Social Security Administration, get a certified copy of your driver's license from your state department of motor vehicles instead of sending the original.

Submitting Your Application, by Mail or in Person

The final step is to submit the SS-5 form and your original or certified documents to your local Social Security office or card center, either by mail or in person. You can find the address online using the Social Security Administration's Field Office Locator.

If you apply by mail, the office or center will mail your original documents back to you along with your new Social Security card. (Note that anyone age 12 or older who is requesting an original Social Security number has to appear in person for an interview.)

One advantage of going in person is that you eliminate the possibility that sensitive or difficult-to-replace personal documents, such as your original birth certificate, driver's license, or passport, will get lost or stolen in the mail. If you have any questions, you can also call that office beforehand and ask which documents you need to bring with you.

Generally, the Social Security Administration says, it will take two to four weeks to process your application and send you your card.