A Social Security number (SSN) is required for more than just getting a job. You'll also need one for your child if you want to claim him or her as a dependent on your tax return, get the child tax credit, buy savings bonds for your child, or open a bank account for your child.
You also need a Social Security number today to add your baby to your health insurance plan or to apply for government benefits like SSI or general assistance. In addition, if you retire, become disabled or die, your children may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your work record, but they need their own Social Security numbers to claim those benefits.
To ensure that your newborn baby is able to take advantage of these benefits, you should apply for a Social Security card as soon as possible after your child's birth.
Apply for a Social Security Number at the Hospital
It is easiest to apply for your child's Social Security number (SSN) through the hospital after your child is born. The hospital, the state agency that issues birth certificates, and the Social Security Administration together coordinate the process, which is known as "Enumeration at Birth," or EAB.
EAB is easiest way to apply for a Social Security Number for a newborn baby because the hospital does all of the work; the parents don't have to submit any supporting documentation. The hospital usually fills out a birth registration form for you and has you sign it. Both parents should be prepared to supply their SSNs as part of the application process, although a SSN can be issued to a child whose parents don't have SSNs of their own.
Handling the Application Process Yourself
If your child was born outside of a hospital, or you didn't use the hospital's service to apply for a Social Security number, you can apply directly to the Social Security Administration to get your child a SSN. To do so, you'll need to submit:
- Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card
- Proof of your child's U.S. citizenship, age and identity. (One document can be the birth certificate and the other can be the hospital's birth record or a medical record.)
- Proof of the applying parent's identity. You can use a driver's license or passport.
This information can typically be brought or mailed to your local Social Security Administration office. If your child is age 12 and older and has never previously applied for a Social Security number, then your child is required to apply in person at the local Social Security office.
What Happens After You Apply for a Social Security Card?
Your child's Social Security card should typically arrive within 60 days of your application date. Once it arrives, store it in a safe location. Because there is a limit on the number of times a Social Security card can be reissued, you should not let your child keep the card in their wallet or other places where it could be lost.
The Social Security Administration recommends that children not sign their card until they get their first job or turn 18 years old, whichever comes first. The card is still valid without a signature.