When, Why, and How Do I Get a New Social Security Number for my Adopted Child?

WHEN

As soon as you receive your adopted child’s birth certificate, it is time to make an application for a new Social Security number. 

WHY

You need a Social Security number to:

  • claim your child as dependent on your income tax return;
  • open a bank account for your child;
  • buy savings bonds or start a college savings fund for your child;
  • get medical coverage for your child; or
  • apply for government services for your child.  

If your adopted child already has a Social Security number, it is important to obtain a new one to maintain confidentiality, and to prevent fraud or misuse. The first Social Security application for your child was likely filled out at the hospital by his birth mother and his first card/number was mailed to her. With a new Social Security number, you will no longer share the information with his birth mother.

If you are in the hospital when your adopted child is born, try to speak with the nurse or social worker in charge of the birth certificate paperwork. If possible, avoid having the birth mother apply for the Social Security number when she fills in the birth certificate paperwork. Applying for the baby’s first Social Security number is a much quicker process, than changing it later. 

HOW

You must apply, in person, at the local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office. Unlike the passport application process, your child does not have to be present at the time of application. There is no cost for a Social Security number and card. Your attorney cannot apply for you! The application, Form SS-5, is online and may be downloaded and filled in before you go.  (www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.pdf)

  • You will be required to provide at least two documents proving your baby's age, identity, and citizenship status. You will need your child's original birth certificate. By this, I mean the one that was issued after the adoption was finalized. The other document can be your child's hospital birth record or other medical recordAll documents must be originals or certified copies. They will not accept photocopies!
  • You must provide proof of your own identity. Your driver's license and passport are both acceptable.
  • Number 11 on Form SS-5 asks if the person has a prior number. Answer this question “no,” even if you are not sure whether your baby received a prior number. You are applying for a number using your child’s new name and your name as parent. If you answer “yes”, or “unknown”, the SSA office will spend time trying to track the first number, link it to the newly issued number, and then cancel the old number. Your child, with his new adoptive identity, does not have a Social Security number and it is truthful to answer “no” to this question. The new number will be issued easily and expeditiously. Of course, if you are aware that the birth mother filled in the child registration form at the hospital, and used your last name on this and/or birth certificate forms, you must answer “yes” to this question because your child’s original number will be linked to the same name and it is important to have it cancelled.

Find the SSA office nearest you by logging on to the SSA's Office Locator at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator

Once you've submitted your application, you should receive a Social Security card in 6 to 12 weeks. It may take substantially longer to process your application if your child is one year of age or older, because the SSA will contact your state's Department of Vital Statistics to confirm that the birth certificate you have provided is valid.

If you need to claim child-related tax breaks before your child’s adoption has finalized, you may obtain an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN) to use before obtaining the Social Security number. To apply for an ATIN, complete IRS Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. The ATIN will be valid for only two years, at which point you can extend it if your child's adoption is still not final. Once the adoption is final, you must stop using the ATIN and get a social security number for your child following the process described above.

If you are adopting a child from another country, you will have to wait until the adoption is final and your child has entered the United States before you can obtain a Social Security number for your child. Once that happens, you can use the process described above. 

Social Security number misuse:

If you think someone is using your child's Social Security number fraudulently, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by: