How to Get a Social Security Number for Your Child

If you didn't apply for your child's SSN at birth in the hospital, or if you're adopting a child, you can always submit an SSN application later.

Updated by , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

A Social Security number is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and is the federal government's way of identifying your child. Your child will need a Social Security number in order for you to claim child-related tax breaks—such as the dependent exemption and the child tax credit—on your income taxes. You will also need the number to add your new baby to your health insurance plan, to set up a college savings plan or bank account for your child, or to apply for government benefits that could help your little one.

Here's how to get a Social Security number for your baby.

How to Apply for a Social Security Number

The easiest way to apply for a Social Security number for your newborn is to complete a birth registration form at the hospital—hospitals usually distribute them while the mother is still a patient. When you apply at the hospital, the same agency that issues birth certificates will pass the information along to the SSA. You can expect to get your baby's Social Security card in one to six weeks, depending on how long your state takes to process the application.

However, if you didn't deliver your baby in the hospital or if for some other reason you were never given a birth registration form to complete, you can request a number by starting an application online. The online application portal walks you through the process step by step.

After submitting your online application, you'll need to bring the following documentation to your local SSA office within 45 calendar days:

  • At least two documents proving your baby's age, identity, and citizenship status. You can use your child's birth certificate to demonstrate citizenship status and age. To prove identity, you can use a:
    • state-issued non-driver's identification card
    • adoption decree
    • doctor, clinic, or hospital record
    • religious record
    • school daycare center record, or
    • school identification card.

The documents will need to be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.

  • Proof of your own identity. Your driver's license, state-issued non-driver identification card, and passport are acceptable. If you don't have one of these, you will need to provide another form of identification—such as an employee ID or U.S. military ID—that's current, lists your name and age, and preferably includes a photograph.

If you'd prefer, you can send in a completed Form SS-5 along with your identification documents to your local SSA office by mail (the SSA will return all documents to you). Most people apply in person, however, because you'll need to provide the SSA with originals or certified copies of all identification documents.

Once you've submitted your application, you should receive a Social Security card in six to 12 weeks. It might take substantially longer to process your application if your child is one year of age or older, because the SSA will contact your state's department of vital statistics to confirm that the birth certificate you have provided is valid.

If You Are Adopting a Child

If the child you are adopting is a United States citizen, your child might have a Social Security number already. If you don't know the number, you'll need to contact the SSA for instructions on what to do. But if you are adopting domestically and your child doesn't have one, you can obtain an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) to claim child-related tax breaks while your child's adoption is pending.

To apply for an ATIN, complete IRS Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. Once you've submitted the application, it takes about four to eight weeks to get the ATIN. The ATIN will be valid for only two years, at which point you can extend it if your child's adoption is still not final. Once the adoption is final, you must stop using the ATIN and get a Social Security number for your child following the process described above.

If you are adopting a child from another country, you will have to wait until the adoption is final and your child has entered the United States before you can obtain a Social Security number for your child. Once that happens, you can use the process described above.

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