Under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Social Security Administration is required to implement new rules for assigning a Social Security number and issuing a Social Security card.

Every year millions of people apply for a Social Security number (SSN) or replacement card. It is important to know the rules for getting a new or replacement card before you apply. Here is a brief primer.

Proof of citizenship, identityThere are strict requirements on what documents Social Security can accept to prove your citizenship and identity when you apply for a Social Security number.

For example, only certain documents can be accepted as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include your U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, a certificate of naturalization or a certificate of citizenship.

If you were born in the United States and have never had an SSN, Social Security will need to verify your birth record before you can be issued a card. Today the parents of most newborns apply for an SSN before taking the child home from the hospital. If that is the case, Social Security will not need to verify the birth record.

If you are a U.S. citizen who is applying for a replacement Social Security card, Social Security will ask you to prove your identity by providing an acceptable document that shows your name, identifying information about you and preferably a recent photograph. Examples of acceptable identity documents include your U.S. driver's license, state-issued identification card or U.S. passport.

Name changesEach year millions of people change their name. Whether due to a marriage, divorce or any other situation, reporting a name change to Social Security helps ensure that you will receive proper credit for your earnings and, one day, the Social Security benefits based on those earnings. If you need to change your name on your Social Security card, you must show proof of your legal name change. Acceptable documents include a marriage license or certificate, a divorce decree stating that you may change your name or a court order for a name change. Social Security may ask that you also provide a document showing your old name and a second document with your new name.

Limits on replacement cardsThere are limits on the number of Social Security replacement cards you can get. You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Name changes, such as might occur when you get married, do not count toward these limits. And changes in citizenship status that require card updates may not count toward these limits.

Info: (800) 772-1213; (www.ssa.gov/pubs/10120.html)

• Clare Espinola is the Social Security Manager in La Grande.

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