Social Security Card Name Change - Updated for 2021

Posted by Elliot Marks

If you live in the United States, you know that almost everything associated with your identity is tied to your Social Security number. The name listed on your Social Security card must match your legal name in most situations like starting employment or trying to open a bank account. So, what happens if your name changes? Perhaps you are recently married or divorced or maybe you just decide that you want to legally change your name for other reasons. How do you change the name on your Social Security card? Thankfully, that process is not that complicated. If you need to change your name on your Social Security card, then keep reading to learn how.

Starting the Process of Changing the Name on Your Social Security Card

The agency that manages your Social Security information is called the Social Security Administration, or SSA. As you can imagine, they manage information for millions of people across the country, so their backlog of work can be great at times. Changing your name with the SSA can be a hassle if you are not sure where to start; however, if you follow the correct process, it should be a simple and painless task.

The Social Security Administration will require proof of your name change. They need to make absolutely certain of a couple of things before they will change the name on your card and send you a new one. First, you will need to prove your identity. This prevents someone from contacting the SSA and changing someone else's name without their knowledge.

Next, you will need to prove that your name has legally changed. You are not allowed to simply contact SSA and request a name change because you want to be called by a different name. Without the proper legal documents like a marriage certificate or divorce decree, then the SSA cannot validate that your name has, in fact, legally changed. Before requesting a Social Security card name change, make sure that you have gone through the process of legally changing your name first. Again, this could be due to marriage, divorce, or the legal name change process.

Now that you know what is required before starting the process, you can dive into the details of getting your new name onto your card.

Print and Complete Form SS-5

Yes, you read that correctly. You must print and complete this form as part of the process. The Form SS-5 is the form used to request a Social Security card. In addition to new cards, this form is also used to request changes to an existing card or record. For instance, name changes, date of birth changes or other changes associated with your Social Security record.

Unfortunately, there is no online process for completing and submitting this form for a name change with Social Security. The form must be completed and either mailed to the Administration or returned in person to your nearest Social Security office. Since the US Postal Service is overwhelmed with their current workload, it is a good idea to deliver the completed form in person to your local Social Security office if at all possible.

Gather All Required Documents for Identification

This is likely the most difficult part of the entire process. Once you complete the SS-5, you will need to gather the required documentation to process your request. As previously mentioned, you will need documents proving both your identity and the changing of your name. One very important item to note is that the documents must be originals or certified copies by the issuing agency. Photocopies or even notarized copies of originals are not acceptable.

Here are some of the most common documents that are accepted by the SSA:

Proof of Your Identity

  • U.S. Driver's license
  • U.S. Passport
  • State issued non-driver's identification card
  • Employer identification card*
  • School issued ID card*
  • Health insurance card*
  • Military issued ID card*

* - note that these cannot always be accepted.

Proof of Name Change

  • Marriage document
  • Divorce decree
  • Court order for name change
  • Certificate of naturalization showing new name

Be aware that the SSA may request documents showing your old name in addition to documents showing your new name.

Proof of U.S. Citizenship

  • U.S. birth certificate
  • U.S. Consular report of birth abroad
  • U.S. Passport
  • Certificate of Naturalization
  • Certificate of Citizenship
  • These documents are generally only required if your status as a U.S. citizen has not been proven previously. If you provide a U.S. Passport, this single document proves both identity and citizenships, so separate documents would not be required.

    If you are a noncitizen, you can request a card under certain circumstances. However, if you are over the age of 12 and have never had a Social Security card, then you must apply for your card in person. Mailing the request form is not an option. You will still be required to provide certain identity documents and immigration documents showing your immigration status.

    Remember that the documents above must be unexpired, original documents. If you do not have the proper documentation, then your request will be rejected. In some cases, you may have to request new, certified copies from the appropriate government agencies before you can start the process of requesting a new Social Security card. This will add time to the process, but the SSA will not make exceptions when it comes to providing the proper documentation. For instance, requesting a new driver's license from your local DMV will take some time, but there is no way around providing the correct documentation.

    Mail or Submit Your Application to Your Local Social Security Office

    No, this is not a joke - there is no online process for completing and submitting the form. This was mentioned already, but it is worth repeating. The form must be completed and either mailed or delivered to a Social Security office in person. If you are thinking, "I need my Social Security card updated now," then you should definitely deliver the form in person. There are a few reasons why the in-person option is a much better choice.

    First, by delivering the form in person you run a smaller risk of losing your documents or having your personal information compromised in the mail, and you will get your corrected card much sooner. It is always a good idea to do everything you can to protect your Social Security number from being compromised. Mailing the form is likely to add days, or even weeks, to the processing time for your request. Given the current situation with COVID, the Postal Service is experiencing delays all across the country.

    In-Person Instructions:

    Step 1

    Use the button below to view and print out the application for an updated Social Security card. You will need your Social Security Number to complete this form. Be sure to fill this application out using your latest information.

    View the Application

    Step 2

    Gather the necessary documents and prepare to bring them with you when you visit the Social Security Administration office. Use the button below to view eligible documents.

    View Eligible Documents

    Step 3

    Use our website to locate your nearest Social Security Administration office and to verify the office hours. Remember to arrive early and to bring your application and all necessary documentation with you in order to make your trip easier.

    Find Your Local SSA Office

    Mailing your form also causes your form to go to a central processing location with all other forms that are mailed from across the country. The processing times at this facility are likely to be much longer than the times at your local office. Visiting your local office also provides another key benefit.

    Mail-In Instructions

    Step 1

    Use the button below to view and print out the application for an updated Social Security card. You will need your Social Security Number to complete this form. Be sure to fill this application out using your latest information.

    View the Application

    Step 2

    Gather the necessary documents and prepare to mail them in to your local Social Security Administration office. Remember that photocopies of documents won't be accepted -- certified copies and original documents will be. Use the button below to view eligible documents.

    View Eligible Documents

    Step 3

    Use our website to find the Social Security Administration office nearest to you and write down its address. This is where you'll mail your application along with the required documentation.

    Find Your Local SSA Office

    When you deliver your completed form and documents in person, you will receive a receipt showing your submission and status. This receipt will essentially serve as your temporary Social Security card until your new one arrives in the mail. This will allow you to proceed with your name change process with other agencies immediately. If there are any problems with your documentation, the local representative can also answer questions and help you resolve those issues instead of waiting to hear back from a mailed application.

    Wait Patiently for Your Updated Social Security Card

    Now that you have completed the form and provided all the documentation required, you can sit back and wait to receive your replacement card in the mail. If you completed the process at your local office, then you can expect to receive your new card in the mail in about 14 business days. You will also receive the documents you provided back in the mail as well.

    If you mailed your application, you can expect the process to take about 4-6 weeks. If it goes longer than that, and you still have not received any information, then you can call the Social Security phone number at 800-772-1213 to check on the status of your request. Just remember to be patient as this office processes thousands of requests per day, and it will take some time for that new card to arrive.

    Conclusion

    Now you should have a good understanding of how to change the name on your Social Security card. Changing your name with the SSA is not a difficult process, but there are specific steps that must be followed. Completing the proper form and providing the proper documentation are absolute musts when it comes to this process. Remember that changing your name can take some time, and it is always best to deliver your completed form and documents in person if possible. This will allow for a faster process and help you catch any errors more quickly.

    Elliot Marks

    Elliot Marks

    Author & Social Security Advisor

    Elliot Marks has spent over 10 years providing clear and concise information to help Americans navigate the complex nuances of social security and many other government services in the United States. Elliot has a passion for helping those in need of these services to be able to find timely access to news and information that is relevant and helpful to their daily lives.