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What is a Social Security Number?

Updated on March 23, 2012

The majority of us are well familiar with what is a social security number (SSN) and what the SSN is used for.

However, there are some people who legitimately might not know everything they need to know about the 9 digit number that follows us around for most of our lives.

Perhaps you are a young adult and your parents have not told you yet, you might be new to this country, or you have some familiarity with the subject, but you would like to learn more.

For whatever reason, if you would like to know the answer to the question "What is a Social Security Number Used For," keep reading below.

How Did I Get a Social Security Number?

Your Social Security Number is a nine digit number that is issued to you by the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration, sometimes referred to as the SSA, is an agency of the United States Government.

If you were born in the United States, your SSN was issued to you when your mother, father, or legal guardian applied for it shorty after you were born.

Shortly after the application was made, your parents were sent a Social Security Card in the mail.

Your parents probably tucked the SSN card away and used it only when it was requested, but by the time you turned 18 they either gave it to you or requested a duplicate copy for you to have.

Besides being born in the U.S., there are two other categories of people who will be issued an SSN:

  • Permanent Residents
  • Temporary Residents who are Working

What My Social Security Number Used For?

As you might have already guessed your Social Security Number is unique to only you.

The number is used by the SSA to track your earnings while you are working, and to track your benefits when you get Social Security benefits later in life or if you are ever permanently disabled in some way (physically or mentally).

Many government agencies and businesses will ask you for your SSN because they use it for record keeping purposes. However, the most common requester of your number is a new employer.

For instance, when you get your first job you, one of the documents you will be asked to provide your new employer is your Social Security Number.

Your employer is required to obtain this number from you so that they can report your earnings to the SSA, this is how your earnings are tracked.

How Do I Replace My Social Security Card?

As you can see, your Social Security Number is extremely important. If you ever lose your card and you need a replacement, or if you have to change your name on your current card, you should visit your local Social Security Office.

You will need to complete a one page application form that is called a Form SS-5, "Application for A Social Security Number Card" and return it to the local office.

You can find information about your nearest Social Security Office by utilizing the Social Security Administration Office Locator.

Want to Learn More about Social Security?

I hope this article has helped you to answer the question, "What is a Social Security Number?"

If you have further questions, please visit the official website of the Social Security Administration at


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