What To Do If You Don’t Have the Documents Needed To Apply for Social Security

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Applying for Social Security benefits is easier than ever with the onset of the online mySocialSecurity account and the ability to apply for and manage benefits completely online for the first time ever.

See: Social Security — Everything You Need To Apply
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The Social Security Administration requires your Social Security card or a record of your number, plus your original birth certificate and proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. Both of these documents must be originals — photocopies are not accepted.

So what should you do if you’ve lost these documents?

The Social Security Administration advises that even if you do not have all of your documents, you should not delay applying for Social Security retirement benefits. You can provide the missing documents later, and the SSA might even be able to help you obtain them.

See: Social Security — How Far in Advance Can I Apply?
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The SSA recommends contacting your local Social Security office. In many cases, it will be able to contact your state Bureau of Vital Statistics for you and verify your information online at no additional cost to you or find other ways to get the information it needs. 

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The Bureau of Vital Statistics has an office in each state, and it is the first stop for obtaining original copies of your birth certificate and/or proof of citizenship. You can find your local office by clicking your state’s link on the National Center for Health Statistics website.

See: 17 Tips To Live Comfortably Off Just a Social Security Check
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The BVS is also the first stop to declare the birth of a child, obtain birth certificates for your children and obtain information on deaths, marriages and divorces.

Important to note: the SSA states that if you delay signing up for benefits, you could actually lose some benefits you may already be due. This means the best thing to do is sign up as soon as you are eligible and then work on obtaining remaining documents. If you have already applied for benefits and are missing documents, the SSA will make note of this and continue with your application for benefits regardless.

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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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