Getting a Social Security number (SSN) card

A Social Security number (abbreviated as SSN and 9 digits in length) is assigned to you by the United States government (specifically by Social Security Administration or SSA). Your social security number helps the government keep track of your earnings and the benefits you can get. It is more than just that. In order to open a bank account, make any major purchase, attend school, to rent a home or purchase a home, apply for a job, or to see a doctor, you will need a social security or number.

You can find a Social Security office closest to you by:

  • calling 1-800-772-1213
  • looking on the Social Security Administration website at,
  • asking friends or neighbors, or
  • looking for the address in the blue pages of the phone book.

A quick tip

If you do not speak English, you can still get a Social Security card. You can seek help from your friends, relatives or community groups. If this is not possible, SSA has interpreters possibly for your native language to help you apply for a Social Security card. If you call 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local SSA office, just ask for an interpreter. By the way, SSA’s website is available in more than one language.

Application for a US social security card
Application for a US social security card

The social security card application will instruct you to provide the necessary documents to obtain a social security card. If you have recently immigrated to US and indicated on your visa application that you want a social security card, you don’t need to apply again. Your card should arrive by mail within 3 weeks upon your arrival in the US. If you have waited that long and did not receive your card, check with your local SSA office. You may be asked to apply again.

After your application has been accepted by the SSA, your Social Security number (size of a typical plastic credit card) will be sent to you in the mail in about two weeks. If, however, SSA needs to verify any of your documents, it may take longer to get your SSN.

After you have received your card, remember to protect it just like you would protect other documents. If your social security number is stolen, thieves can do any number of things including opening bank accounts, or opening credit card accounts on your name. You can help avoid such problems by protecting yourself from this serious crime by these simple tips:

  • do business or share your social security number (and any other personal information) with the people you trust and know.
  • don't give any personal information over the phone or on websites without a legitimate purpose. If the caller is a stranger or you found a strange website via email link, the caller and the website likely does not deserve to have your personal information.
  • when you leave home, don't carry with your Social Security card. Leave the card at home in a safe place. Do not write (or save in a computing gadget/device) your social security number as a reminder, instead memorize your number.
  • carry with you only your identification documents or credit cards you need at the time. Leave the rest of the documents at home in a safe place.
  • tear up or shred any paper or forms with your personal information on them before throwing them in the trash. Thieves are searching in trash too for personal information!
Posted on 5/12/2006
by Raj Singh