The Social Security Administration offers replacements for lost social security cards free of charge in three different ways: by mail, online (for those in select states) and in person at a local Social Security office. The time frame with all three methods of replacement is similar – you will receive your new card in the mail within 10 to 14 business days after the Social Security Administration receives and processes your application. Unfortunately there is no option to expedite an application for a new card, and no alternative to receiving the card by mail. The best way to ensure you receive your card as soon as possible is to choose the least time-consuming of the available ways to apply, and to avoid any processing delays by making sure your form is completed properly and accompanied by the correct supporting documents.
Properly completing the application form is key to speeding up the application process. The application form is available on the Social Security Administration's website and in any local Social Security office. Use the same form to apply for a new card or a replacement one. Read the instructions carefully to ensure you don't make any mistakes. You can complete the form online, print and sign it, or print it out and complete it by hand. If you opt to fill out the form by hand, make sure all the information is very clearly written in blue or black ink only.
Supporting Documents: Proof of Identity
You must provide a valid document to prove your identity. A driver's license, state-issued identification card or passport are the best options. If you do not have any of these documents, you might be able to use an alternative form of ID, such as a school, employer or military-issued ID. If you need to use one of these alternatives to prove your identity, it's advisable to call your local Social Security office and discuss suitable forms of ID with a representative.
Supporting Documents: Proof of Identity or Eligibility to Work
Some applicants need to provide proof of citizenship or eligibility to work in the United States along with ID and the application. Examples include U.S. citizens who have not previously established their citizenship status with the Social Security Administration e.g. new citizens, and non-U.S. citizens who are legally allowed to work in the United States. Documents that you can use to prove citizenship include certified birth certificates and U.S. passports; documents that prove eligibility to work include permanent resident cards ("green cards") and work permits. Again, if you are in any doubt about the best documents to use to prove your citizenship, call a Social Security office and ask a representative for advice.
Fastest Application Method
Residents of any U.S. state are able to submit an application for a new or replacement social security card by mail or in person at a local social security office. Residents of some states have the additional option of applying online, which requires setting up a My Social Security online account. All three application methods involve the same time frame for processing and mailing out your card – 10 to 14 days after the application is received. Therefore, the only way to speed up the process is to submit your application and supporting documents in the fastest possible way.
For most applicants who live in eligible states, the quickest option is to apply online. Setting up a My Social Security account and completing the application online takes less than an hour and can be done at home, at any time of the day, assuming you have internet access, a computer and all the required information and documents on hand.
The second-fastest way, and the fastest for residents of states not eligible for online applications, is to go in person to a local office. However, you'll need to factor in the relative inconvenience of traveling to the office and waiting in line during business hours, as compared to sending in your application by mail.
Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. Her writing specialties include relationships, entertainment and food, and she has penned pieces about subjects from social media tools for Adobe to artists’ biographies for StubHub. Thomas has also written for such names as Disney, Hyundai, Michelob and USA Today, among others. She resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.