How To Apply For Social Security

This page provides the steps on how to apply for Social Security benefits. It is recommended to start the Social Security application process for your retirement benefits three months before you want your payments to start. The easiest way is to apply for Social Security benefits is through the SSA online application process.

The SSA may need to see certain documents in order to pay benefits. If you apply online, a list of documents needed will appear at the end of the Social Security application, along with instructions on where to submit them. Documents that might be needed are:

In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed.

Who can apply for retirement benefits online?

You can apply online for retirement benefits or benefits as a spouse if you:

What do I need to know before I apply?

Before you apply for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security basics you should know about. This guide will help you determine whether you qualify for Social Security benefits.

Your full retirement age
Depending on your date of birth, that may be between age 66 and 67. This could affect the amount of your benefits and when you want the benefits to start.

When you can start benefits
You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

Benefits are reduced for age
Your monthly benefits will be reduced if you start them any time before full retirement age.

Working while you receive benefits
If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits.

Delayed retirement credits
Delayed retirement credits may be added if they start after your full retirement age.

Life expectancy
If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between.

Why apply for retirement online?

Using the online application has a number of benefits:

If you choose to apply for benefits more than two months in the future, you will not be able to check the status of your application until one month before you start receiving benefits. Once you have been approved for benefits, see if you are eligible for other Social Security programs.

What about Medicare?

If you already have Medicare, you can still use this application to apply for retirement benefits. If you don't have Medicare but are within 3 months of age 65, you can use this application to apply for both retirement and Medicare; or just Medicare, if you aren't ready to receive retirement benefits yet. If you need to apply for Medicare only, how to apply For Medicare.

If you cannot apply for Social Security benefits online, then try these other options listed below:

By phone
Call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7am to 7pm.

In person
Visit your local Social Security Office. Call first to make an appointment. If you do not live in the US or one of its territories you can also contact the nearest US Social Security office, US Embassy or consulate.