Should You Get Your Baby a Social Security Number?

Several Good Reasons to Do So

Baby holding Social Security card

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Though many people object to being tracked by the U.S. government from the "cradle to the grave," there are many benefits to parents obtaining Social Security numbers for their children. There are also many benefits to doing so soon after a child is born.

Why Right After Your Child Is Born?

While it is not mandatory for all people to have a Social Security number, most parents today apply for their babies to have one before even leaving the hospital. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are several good reasons for making sure your child has a Social Security number as soon as possible.

The most common reason is that in order to for you to claim an exemption for your child as a dependent on your federal income taxes, they need a Social Security number. In addition, if you qualify for the child tax credit, you will need their Social Security number to claim this.

Your child also needs a Social Security number if you plan to do any of the following:

  • Obtain health insurance for them or add them to your health care plan
  • Open a bank or savings account for them
  • Buy savings bonds for them
  • Apply for government benefits or services for them

Some of these things can take a while to set up and process. The sooner you are able to obtain a Social Security number for your child, the sooner you can take care of them.

What Does It Cost?

Nothing. There is no charge for getting a new or replacement Social Security number and card, no matter how and when you apply. All Social Security services are free. If someone tries to charge you for getting a number or card, report them to the SSA's Office of the Inspector General hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or submit an online report.

How to Do It: At the Hospital

The easiest and fastest way to obtain a Social Security number for your child is to confirm that you want one when you are giving the hospital information for your baby's birth certificate. This will be a question that the hospital staff asks you. You will then be asked for the Social Security numbers of both parents. If it is not possible to provide both, you can still apply.

When you apply at the hospital, your application is first processed by your state and then by the Social Security Administration. Each state has different processing times and could take anywhere from one to six weeks, but two weeks is average. You can then expect the Social Security Administration to take about two weeks to finish processing the application. Finally, you will get your child's Social Security card in the mail.

If you do not get your child's Social Security card in the indicated time frame for your state, you can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or visit a Social Security office.

How to Do It: At the Social Security Office

If you didn't deliver your baby at a hospital or you chose not to apply in the hospital, you will need to visit your local Social Security Administration office in order to get a Social Security number for your baby. At the Social Security office, you will do three things:

Ideally, you should provide your child's original birth certificate or a certified copy of their birth certificate to prove their identity when submitting their application. Other documents that might be accepted include other hospital records of birth, religious records, a U.S. passport, or a U.S. immigration document. Note that children 12 and older will need to appear in person when applying for a Social Security number.

The SSA provides a complete list of documents accepted when applying for a new or replacement Social Security number.

What About Adopted Children?

If your adopted child does not already have a Social Security number, the SSA can assign them one. But while the SSA can give your adopted child a Social Security number before the adoption is complete, you may want to wait until it is finalized. Once the adoption is complete, you can apply using your child's new last name and list yourself as their parent.

For tax purposes, however, you might want to claim an exemption for your adopted child before the adoption is still pending. In this case, you need to send the IRS a Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions.

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Longley, Robert. "Should You Get Your Baby a Social Security Number?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, thoughtco.com/why-get-your-baby-a-ssn-3321404. Longley, Robert. (2021, July 31). Should You Get Your Baby a Social Security Number? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-get-your-baby-a-ssn-3321404 Longley, Robert. "Should You Get Your Baby a Social Security Number?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-get-your-baby-a-ssn-3321404 (accessed August 4, 2021).