Q&A: Replacing Lost Social Security Cards

I lost my Social Security card–what should I do?

Am I required to replace my lost Social Security card?

There is no requirement to replace a lost Social Security card. Knowing your Social Security number is what is important. If you choose to replace a lost card you will need to complete a Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card). Form SS-5 is available from your local Social Security office, or you can download a copy from the Social Security website (ssa.gov). You also will need to gather documents proving your identity and U.S. citizenship (if you have not already established your citizenship with Social Security).

Social Security can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information (date of birth or age), and preferably a recent photograph. Examples include:

  • U.S. driver’s license;
  • State-issued non-driver identification card; or
  • U.S. passport.

Social Security can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include:

  • U.S. birth certificate;
  • U.S. consular report of birth;
  • U.S. passport;
  • Certificate of Naturalization; or
  • Certificate of Citizenship.

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Social Security will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.

Take or mail your completed Form SS-5 and documents to your local Social Security office.

There is no charge to replace your Social Security card if it is lost or stolen. However, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship.

In summary, while you are not required to replace a lost Social Security card, it is often advisable to do so. But remember that the number of replacement cards you may receive is limited, and so it is a good practice to keep your card in a safe place. Do not carry it with you unless you need it for a specific purpose, such as to apply for a job.

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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