Social Security: Everything You Need To Apply

Social Security cards and assorted cash.
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Applying for Social Security benefits for the first time requires less than you might think, but the documents needed vary depending on your individual circumstances.

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The Social Security Administration states that the most basic list of requirements includes:

  • Your Social Security card or a record of your number.
  • Your original birth certificate, a copy certified by the issuing agency, or other proof of your age. This must be the original document(s), or copies certified by the agency that issued them. photocopies or notarized copies are not accepted for this document.
  • If you were not born in the U.S., proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. These must be the original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. The SSA cannot accept documents if they have expired. They also cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies.
  • A copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) if you served before 1968. A photocopy is acceptable.
  • A copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year. A photocopy is acceptable.

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If records show that you’ve already provided proof of age or citizenship/lawful alien status for an earlier Medicare or Social Security claim, you will not need to provide the above documents again.

Whatever documents you provide will be returned to you, regardless of whether or not they are originals or photocopies.

You can apply for social security benefits online by creating a mySocialSecurity account, and upload any accepted online documents via the online portal. The online requirements are mostly personal information like name and place of birth, marital status and SSN numbers for you and your spouse, employer details and general work history.

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You can also utilize the online Checklist For The Online Medicare, Retirement, And Spouses Application to help you gather the information you need to apply. The checklist highlights everything you need for retirement benefits but also points out what is needed for Medicare and spousal benefits as well.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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