The birth of a new baby is often a happy, stressful, and terrifying time. New parents have so much on their plates already, but it is very important that they apply for their child’s important documents as soon as possible.
First, they must register the child’s birth and apply for a birth certificate. Second, they will need to request a Social Security number and card for the child. Both of these documents are vital for the child’s future. Fortunately, they are both very easy to get. You can even apply for both of them on the same application form.
What is a Social Security number for?
A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit, government-issued number given to all U.S. citizens and eligible U.S. residents that apply for one. It is used as an identifier in many situations, however, it’s primary purpose is to track an individual’s earnings, taxes, and Social Security contributions.
You’ll need an SSN to legally work in the U.S., since your employer must have it in order to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
You may also need to provide your Social Security card or number to:
- Open a bank account
- Apply for a loan or mortgage
- Apply for public assistance or government benefits
- Enroll in Medicare or private insurance
- Get a passport or driver’s license
- File your tax return
If you do not have a Social Security number, you won’t be able to establish a credit history, which is a vital factor that banks consider when approving or denying loan applications. Even phone and utility companies may refuse to provide service or charge a premium if you do not have a good, established credit history.
How do I get an SSN for my newborn?
The easiest way to apply for an SSN for a new baby is to request one on the birth registration form. The hospital should provide you with the birth registration form before you go home, since this is the form you will fill out to apply for your baby’s birth certificate. All you have to do is check the box stating that you want to get an SSN for the child. It will also ask for the Social Security numbers of the parent(s). In this case, it usually takes 4-5 weeks for the Social Security number and card to arrive in the mail.
If you did not complete the form after your baby was born, or you just didn’t request an SSN at that time, you can go to your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and apply for an SSN for your baby in person. However, it is a little more complicated, since you’ll need to:
- Fill out the Form SS-5
- Provide the parent(s) Social Security numbers
- Show at least two documents proving your child’s age, identity, and citizenship status, for example, a birth certificate and a medical record or hospital birth record.
- Present proof of your identity (driver’s license or passport)
When the SSA has processed your application, your child’s Social Security card will be delivered by mail in 6-12 weeks. However, if your child is over one year old, the processing time will be longer, since the SSA must contact the Vital Records Office to verify that the birth certificate is valid.
Do I need to get a Social Security number for my child?
If you want to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, they must have their own Social Security number. They will also need an SSN if you plan to:
- Open a bank account for them
- Buy them savings bonds
- Sign them up for health insurance or Medicare
- Apply for government services or assistance for them
While you do not legally have to get your child an SSN, they will be required to have one to sign up for multiple vital services, and it’s very simple and free to apply for one. If you do not get your child a Social Security number, you won’t be able to do any of the things listed above. You’ll be missing on valuable tax credits, since you won’t be able to claim them on your tax return. In addition, you will not be able to add them to your existing health insurance plan or enroll them in Medicare or any other social programs. This may prevent you from accessing adequate medical care for them. As you can see, even as a child, a Social Security number is vital form of identification.
If you have adopted a child and they do not have an SSN yet, you can apply for a Social Security number for them, as well. You’ll apply in the exact same way you would if they were your biological child.
If you choose to wait and apply for an SSN for your child later on at the SSA office, you’ll need an certified copy of your child’s birth certificate. Fortunately, it is easy to apply for copies of your vital records online, and it only takes a few minutes.
You can also check out: How to get a replacement Social Security card and How do I change my name on my Social Security Card?