How to Register Your Baby for a Social Security Number

It's a good idea to register your child for a Social Security number at birth.

Dan Avery Former Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal finance, government and policy, consumer affairs
Dan Avery
3 min read
Parents holding a newborn baby

Since the 1980s, newborns can be registered for a Social Security card as part of the birth registration process.

Getty Images

Childbirth can seem like a miracle, but in the modern world, even the smoothest delivery can be complicated by bureaucracy. And in the haze of caring for a newborn, you might forget to check on everything.

Like, How does my baby get a Social Security number?
Fortunately, most hospitals have new parents fill out a birth registration form for their state's vital records office and will ask you if you want to apply for a Social Security number at the same time.
But what if they forget? Or you don't have your baby in a hospital? Here's what you need to know about registering your newborn for a Social Security number.
For more on Social Security, learn what to do if your number has been stolen and how to get a replacement card.

How do I register my baby for a Social Security card?

When the hospital has you complete a birth registration form, make sure it asks you about registering your baby with the Social Security Administration.

When the hospital submits birth registration information to your state's bureau of vital statistics, that agency can electronically forward the information to Social Security, which will automatically assign a number and mail out a card. 
Started in 1987, the Enumeration at Birth, or EAB, program eliminates the need for parents to gather documents and forms to send to the Social Security Administration.  

How long will it take to get a Social Security number and card?

According to the Social Security Administration, the average processing time for EAB cases is two weeks. It may take another two weeks to receive a card in the mail.

Baby holding a Social Security card

A 15-day-old baby holds his Social Security card in 1958.

Getty Images

I didn't register my child in the hospital. Can I do it later?

If you don't register your newborn in the hospital, you'll need to go to your local Social Security office. This process is more involved, and it can take anywhere from one to six weeks to get a card, depending on what state you live in.
To save time, you can start the application process online and complete it in person within 45 days. You can also print out a registration form to complete and bring in. 
You'll need documentation confirming your child's identity, age and citizenship status, as well as proof of your identity. (You can get details on acceptable documents for getting a child a Social Security number here.)
You can also apply by mail by submitting a completed Form SS-5 (PDF), but you'll have to include originals or certified copies of all identification documents. (The SSA will give them back to you.)

Anyone 12 or older requesting an original Social Security number will be asked for an in-person interview.

What if my child is adopted?

If you're adopting a child from the US, they may already have a Social Security number. If you don't know, or don't know the number, contact the agency for help.

If you know the child doesn't have a Social Security number, you can have one assigned before the process is complete. But you may want to wait until the adoption is finalized, especially if the child will have a new name. 

If you're adopting a child from another country, you'll have to wait until the adoption is complete and they've arrived in the country.

Am I required to register my child for a Social Security number?

According to the agency, getting a number is voluntary. But one's required if you plan to claim your child as a dependent.
Your baby also needs a Social Security number for you to:

  • Enroll them in health care.
  • Start a bank account for them.
  • Buy savings bonds in their name.
  • Register them for government services.

And if your child is going to work, get a credit card, or apply for a loan when older, a Social Security number will be necessary anyway.

I lost my child's Social Security card

You can replace your child's Social Security card if it's lost or stolen, although there's a limit of three replacement cards in a year and 10 in a lifetime. (Legal name changes don't count toward these limits.)
Read on: How to Get a Replacement Social Security Card

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.