Do you need to apply for a Social Security number? The SSN is a nine-digit unique identifier that you need to get a job. Employers use this identifier to accurately record your wages and earnings. You’ll need an SSN to obtain other services offered by the government, as well as Social Security disability (SSDI) if you ever need to apply for disability benefits.
So how do you apply for a Social Security number? If you’re 18 or older and not requesting a name change, you might be able to apply online. About 20 states will let you apply online with a valid state drivers license. You also have to have a U.S. mailing address (this includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses).
Social Security cards are free to obtain. There is no fee.
The other states require you to apply in person or by mail. All applicants must fill out an application. Check with your local office regarding whether you need to appear in person or whether you can mail your application and documents. Any document you provide must either be an original or a certified copy from the agency that originally issued the document. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not accept photocopies or notarized copies. Specifically regarding birth certificates, you must show that your birth took place in the United States, or that you were married in the United States.
Depending on your citizenship, you’ll need to bring different documents with you. Learn What Documents You Need to find out what documents you will have to show.
The SSA issues three types of SSN cards. The first is a SSN that lets you work with no restrictions; these numbers are issued to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The second type is a restricted SSN labeled “Valid for work only with DHS authorization”, issued to legal temporary residents with an existing DHS work authorization. The third type of SSN is labeled as “Not valid for employment” and is used to non-citizens who have been admitted to the U.S. but who don’t have a DHS work authorization. This type of SSN is issued when there is another valid reason, outside of work, explaining why the person needs an SSN, such as needing to obtain a government benefit or service.
In general, the SSA will mail your card within 10 business days after the date your application is processed. It may take longer if there are delays in them getting the necessary documents and other information.
A closing tip: Don’t carry your Social Security card with you. You rarely need to show the actual card, and you don’t want it to get stolen if you carry it in your wallet or purse. It’s best to keep it in a safe place with your other important papers, like in a safe in your home or in bank safety deposit box.