father holding newborn baby in his arms

What to Know About Getting a Baby’s Social Security Number

Your baby has been born, and you’ve officially decided on a baby name, so what comes next?

Well, quite a bit in reality, but one of the little things you’ll have to do, or maybe not so little, is get them a Social Security number. 

You may be overwhelmed and probably exhausted, so filling out paperwork for a Social Security number can feel like the last thing you want to do, but still, it’s important. 

When you give your child’s birth certificate information at the hospital, they’ll typically ask you if you want to go ahead and apply for a Social Security number.

If you say yes, then you’re asked to provide your Social Security number and one for the other parent. If you don’t know both parents’ numbers, you can still apply for your child. 

The following are things to know about Social Security numbers for children

thumb holding a social security card

What Is a Social Security Number?

First, what is a Social Security number, and why does your child need one? 

Social Security Numbers are an identifier that is assigned to citizens of the U.S. and other residents. These identifiers are used to track income and also as part of determining benefits. The New Deal in 1936 ushered in the use of SSNs for retirement and disability benefits. 

In the U.S., you provide your SSN to get credit and government benefits, make big purchases, open bank accounts, and more. 

There are very few exceptions, and otherwise, all citizens of the U.S., temporary or working residents, and permanent residents get an SSN.

Even when someone is a non-working resident, which can include citizens and non-citizens, they can get an SSN because it’s used by businesses and the government. 

Why Your Baby Needs An SSN

As your baby gets older, there will be a lot of reasons they’ll need to use their Social Security number, but there are current reasons as well. 

You will need your baby to have one if you plan to claim them as a dependent on your income taxes. You’ll also potentially need an SSN if you want to buy savings bonds for your child, open a bank account for them, get medical coverage, or apply for government services for your baby. 

Getting an SSN is technically voluntary, but if you don’t do it, you may not be able to get the necessary services. 

How to Get An SSN

As mentioned above, when you have a baby, the easiest way to get an SSN is to do so at the hospital, but you can also do it later. 

You can go to the Social Security office, where you will use your SSN to start the application process. You can apply online too. You will have to show that your child is a U.S. citizen and prove their age and identity.

You’ll also have to show the Social Security office documents that prove your identity and relationship to your child. 

The Social Security Administration will accept a birth certificate, consular report of birth, a passport that’s valid or unexpired, or a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship as proof of U.S. citizenship. 

If your baby was born in the U.S., you’d have to show the birth certificate, but if one’s not available, you will have to show something else, like a U.S. hospital record of birth or a religious record that shows the date of birth. 

If a child is born outside the country, the parent will have to present a foreign birth certificate or an acceptable equivalent like a Certificate of Birth Abroad. 

There isn’t a cost to get your baby an SSN and the card that goes with it. 

Children’s Identity Theft

Along with the topic of Social Security numbers for children is the risk of identity theft. Around one in 50 kids were identity theft victims in 2021, and victims lost around $918 million as a result.

Scammers can use your child’s information, including their Social Security number, to open loans and credit cards, and more. 

Since it’s not common for parents to monitor their children’s credit, when a scammer gets this information, it can potentially go undetected for years. 

The SSN is the thing that thieves often want the most, but birth certificates, names and addresses, and dates of birth can also be information that’s valuable from the perspective of a theft. 

Finally, to protect your child’s identity, only give out their SSN when it’s absolutely necessary, and monitor their credit and SSN. You should also keep sensitive documents like their Social Security card in a location that’s secure.