Name changes are very common, since most people choose to change their name due to marriage or divorce. Some also legally change their name through a court order. However, after you change your name, you’ll have to update many of your documents to reflect the change, including your Social Security card and your driver’s license.
A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit, government-issued number that all U.S. citizens and eligible residents can apply for. Your SSN is used to track your earnings, the number of years you have worked, your taxes, and your Social Security contributions.
So, if you’ve changed your name, it’s important to update your Social Security card to make sure all your financial affairs stay in order and you can access your accumulated benefits when it’s time to retire.
After you update the name on your Social Security Card, you will also be able to use it as proof of ID to change the name on other documents. In the following sections, we’ll cover the documents that you will need to change the name on your Social Security card.
Proof of U.S. citizenship
First, you will need to provide proof of your U.S. citizenship in order to legally change your name on your Social Security card. It’s simple to do this by showing your U.S. birth certificate or valid U.S. passport. However, they must be original or certified documents, not photocopies. You can order a certified birth certificate copy online, if you need one.
If you are a foreign born U.S. citizen, you must provide one of the following:
- Certificate of Naturalization (N-550/N-570)
- Certificate of Citizenship (N-560/N-561)
- Certificate of Report of Birth (DS-1350)
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240, CRBA)
If you are non-citizen U.S. resident, you must prove your legal residency using a:
- Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa)
- I-766 (Employment Authorization Document, EAD, work permit)
- I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)
- Admission stamp in the unexpired foreign passport
Proof of your name change
You’ll also need to show proof of your legal name change when you apply to update the name on your Social Security card. Any documents you use to do so must be originals that were issued within the last two years. Depending on the situation, you should use your:
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- Certificate of Naturalization showing your new name
- Court order approving your name change
- Final adoption decree with the new name, court order approving the name change, or a birth certificate amended with the new name (if the Social Security card is for your child)
You may also want to read: US naming laws by state.
Proof of identity
Finally, you will also need to prove your identity, using an valid, unexpired document showing your full name, date of birth, and a recent photo. Again, this document must be an original, not a photocopy.
You can use your:
- U.S. driver’s license
- State-issued ID card
- U.S. passport (proves both your citizenship and your identity)
- School identification card
- Employee identification card
- Health insurance card (not Medicare)
- U.S. military ID card
A completed application
You’ll also need a completed application, which you can get online or in-person from the Social Security Administration Office nearest you. Carefully read the instructions, fill out the application correctly, and then sign the form. If you have any errors or missing information, the SSA will not be able to process your request. Also, if you are applying on behalf of a minor child, the application will ask for your relationship to the child (parent, legal guardian, etc.).
Submitting your application
When you have all of your necessary documents, you can submit your application. All SSA offices can process name change applications, so you can go to your local one in-person, or just mail in your application.
While many Social Security card services are now available online, unfortunately, changing the name on your card is not one of them. Social Security card name changes can only be processed in-person or by mail. This is because you must provide physical proof of your identity and your name change. While this may seem inconvenient, it helps protect citizens from fraud and identity theft. If you could change the name on your card online, without presenting physical documentation and ID, a scammer could too.
If your application is approved, you will get your updated Social Security card in around 10 business days, along with your original documents, if you mailed your application in.
You can also check out more info on: How to get a replacement Social Security Card and How to get your newborn’s Social Security Number and card