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Should You Get Your Baby a Social Security Number?

And How to Do It

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Social security card
Tom Grill/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Despite the fact that many people object to being tracked by the U.S. government from the "cradle to the grave," there are several at least convenient reasons for parents to get Social Security numbers for their newborn babies.

Why So Soon?

While it is not required, most parents now apply for their new baby's Social Security number before they even leave the hospital. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are several good reasons for doing so.

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 tax, he or she will need a Social Security number. In addition, if you qualify for the child tax credit, you will need your child's Social Security number to claim it. Your child may also need a Social Security number if you plan to:
  • Obtain health insurance for your child or add your child to your own health care plan;
  • Open a bank or savings account for your child;
How to Do It: At the Hospital

The easiest and fastest way to get your new baby a Social Security number is to say you want one when you give the hospital information for your baby's birth certificate. You will need to provide both parents' Social Security numbers if possible. However, you can still apply even if you do not know both parents' Social Security numbers.

When you apply at the hospital, your application is first processed by your state and then by Social Security. While each state has different processing times, about 2 weeks is average. Add another 2 weeks for processing by Social Security. You will get your child's Social Security card in the mail.

Also See: Protect Your Kids from ID Theft at School

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

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 your baby a Social Security number. At the Social Security office, you will need to do three things:
  • Provide original documents proving your child's identity, age and U.S. citizenship status; and
  • Provide documents proving your identity (driver's license, passport, etc.).
Ideally, you should provide your child's original birth certificate or a certified copy of the birth certificate. Other documents that might be accepted include; hospital records of birth, religious records, U.S. passport, or 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 on their web site at http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm.

Also See: How to Replace a Lost or Stolen Social Security Card

What About Adopted Children?

If your adopted child does not already have a Social Security number, the SSA can assign one. While the SSA can give your adopted child a Social Security number before the adoption is complete, you may want to wait. Once the adoption is complete, you will be able to apply using your child's new name, and listing you as the parent.

For tax purposes, 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.

Also See: Do You Need a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN)?

What Does it Cost?

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

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