Do you have the same Social Security number your whole life?

Quick Answer

Yes, you are issued one Social Security number for life. Your Social Security number does not change throughout your lifetime. There are very rare exceptions where someone may need to change their number, such as in cases of identity theft or harassment, but the vast majority of people use the same Social Security number from when it was first issued until death.

What is a Social Security Number?

A Social Security number is a unique nine-digit number assigned to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents for tax and identification purposes. The Social Security Administration issues these numbers, and they allow the government and other institutions to track individuals for Social Security benefits and taxation.

Social Security numbers were first created in 1936 as part of the implementation of the Social Security program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since then, these numbers have expanded in use to become a key form of identification used by institutions like banks, schools, hospitals, and more. Today, a Social Security number is required for purposes such as getting a job, collecting Social Security benefits, and filing taxes.

Each Social Security number consists of nine digits divided into three parts:

  • The first three digits are the area number based on the state where the application was made.
  • The next two digits are the group number used to categorize Social Security numbers by application date and order.
  • The last four digits are serial numbers assigned sequentially from within each group number.

This means every Social Security number is unique to the individual it is assigned to. The combination of area number, group number, and serial number allows for billions of possible Social Security numbers to be issued before any need to reuse numbers.

Do You Keep the Same Number for Life?

In most cases, yes – you are issued one Social Security number that does not change for the duration of your life. Here are some key facts about keeping your Social Security number the same:

  • Social Security numbers are meant to be permanent. The Social Security Administration does not reuse Social Security numbers after someone dies.
  • You keep the same number from when you first acquire it until you pass away, in most cases for 70-80 years or more.
  • Your number does not change if you move, get married, change jobs, etc. It stays tied to you as an individual.
  • You typically get your Social Security number as a child if you are a U.S. citizen. You keep this same number your entire life.

The Social Security Administration emphasizes that Social Security numbers are unique and permanent identifiers that do not get recycled or changed on a regular basis. The intent is for all individuals to keep one number for a lifetime.

This allows the Social Security number system to accurately track individuals over decades for taxation, benefits, employment, and identification purposes. If Social Security numbers changed often, it would undermine this system and make it much harder to coordinate records over long periods.

Rare Exceptions for Number Changes

While you typically keep one Social Security number for life, there are a few rare situations where someone may need or qualify for a new Social Security number:

  • Identity theft victim: If someone steals your Social Security number and fraudulently uses it, you may qualify for a new number to prevent further misuse.
  • Harassment victim: People who are being severely harassed or abused may receive a new number for safety reasons.
  • Witness protection: Those entering witness protection programs may get a new identity, including a new Social Security number.
  • Error in initial number: Very rarely, if there is an error in the initial number issuance, the SSA may have to issue a new number.
  • Religious/cultural opposition: In some strict religious groups, members may qualify for new numbers if they oppose numbers being used as universal identifiers.

In these types of exceptional cases, the Social Security Administration reviews applications for new numbers carefully. You typically need to provide evidence of why you require a new number due to fraud, harassment, religious objection, etc.

The SSA reports that less than 1,000 people per year on average change their Social Security numbers for these types of special circumstances. That constitutes a very small portion of the 5.5 million annual new number assignments.

For the vast majority of the population, expect to use your original Social Security number for your entire life.

Protecting Your Social Security Number

Because you will likely have your Social Security number permanently, it is crucial to protect this number and be cautious about sharing it. Here are some tips:

  • Only provide your SSN when absolutely necessary, such as for tax filings or applying for loans.
  • Check that any government forms requesting your SSN are valid and shred forms when no longer needed.
  • Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Keep it in a secure location.
  • Don’t give out your SSN over the phone or via email if you did not initiate the contact.
  • Run regular credit reports to check for any suspicious activity involving your number.
  • Enable security freezes on your credit reports to prevent criminals from accessing your data.

Being proactive about keeping your Social Security number protected reduces your vulnerability to theft and fraud. If you suspect your number is being misused, report it immediately to the Social Security Administration and proper law enforcement authorities.

Getting a New Social Security Number for a Child

Parents sometimes wonder if they need to get new Social Security numbers for their children as they grow up. However, in most cases, a child can keep the same Social Security number issued early in life permanently.

Here are some common questions about kids and Social Security numbers:

When do children get Social Security numbers?

Parents can apply for Social Security numbers for their newborn children along with filing for the child’s birth certificate. Many hospitals and birthing facilities allow parents to request numbers immediately after a child is born.

You can also apply for a Social Security number separately later through your local Social Security office. Some parents wait until the child is older and starts school or needs documentation to apply.

Can a child use a parent’s Social Security number?

No, each individual must have their own unique Social Security number. It is illegal to use someone else’s number as your own.

Does a child need a new SSN at age 18?

No, a child keeps their originally assigned Social Security number into adulthood permanently. There is no need to switch to a new “adult” number at age 18.

Can children under 18 get a new Social Security number?

Children can change Social Security numbers only under the same rare special circumstances as adults. These include cases of identity theft, entering witness protection programs, or other reasons involving the safety of the child.

Simply growing up and becoming an adult is not by itself a justification for someone under 18 to change their Social Security number.

Getting a Social Security Number as an Adult Immigrant

Adult immigrants who become U.S. citizens or permanent residents also receive Social Security numbers. Here is some information on how new immigrants get Social Security numbers:

  • Only citizens, permanent residents, and temporary working residents can get Social Security numbers.
  • Numbers are assigned by the Social Security Administration after documentation verification.
  • Immigrants keep the same Social Security number for life once assigned.
  • Social Security numbers given to immigrants are permanent and do not expire.

Immigrants who later become U.S. citizens do not need to change their Social Security numbers. The existing number remains valid regardless of citizenship status.

It is not possible for immigrants residing illegally long-term in the U.S. to acquire Social Security numbers. You must prove legal residency or citizenship status before the government will issue a number. The Social Security Administration verifies documents through the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department before assigning numbers.

Getting a Social Security Number After Changing Gender

Those who change their legal gender can keep the same Social Security number they already have. There is no requirement to get a new Social Security number after a legal gender transition.

According to the Social Security Administration, the gender in their records is based solely on what is in the master database of SSA records. They do not actually include a “gender” designation as part of someone’s Social Security number itself.

So transitioning gender does not affect the structure of your existing Social Security number. An individual can change their other legal documents and records to reflect a new gender while keeping the original Social Security number.

The SSA will change your gender in Social Security records based on updated documentation from a court order or doctor certifying the change in gender. This gender change gets reflected in SSA records and data but does not require you to switch to an entirely new Social Security number itself.


In nearly all cases, you keep and use the same Social Security number your entire life. This unique identifier stays with you permanently from the first issuance until death. It does not change due to moves, name changes, life events, or becoming an adult or senior.

Extremely rarely, someone may need to change their Social Security number due to identity theft, harassment, or witness protection reasons. But the vast majority of people will never need or qualify for a new Social Security number to replace the original one assigned.

Protecting your Social Security number is crucial since you depend on it for your lifetime. Being cautious about sharing it and checking for any suspicious use of your number can save you significant headaches.

Children can receive Social Security numbers at birth or when needed later in childhood. They keep these same numbers into adulthood rather than needing to switch to new “adult” numbers at age 18. Immigrants also receive permanent Social Security numbers that do not expire and stick with them for life.

So in general, no, you do not get a new Social Security number as you age or go through life changes. Your unique SSN remains yours alone for many decades!

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