How to Apply for Social Security for the First Time

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You may have a lot of questions when you are applying for Social Security benefits for the first time. In this article, we will detail how to apply for Social Security benefits for the first time so that you are fully prepared when the time comes to apply for them.

How Do You Apply For Social Security For The First Time?

When it comes to applying for Social Security for the first time, the first thing that you should know is you need to be at least 61 years and 9 months old and want the benefits to start in no more than four months.

If you meet the above criteria, then you can either apply online, by calling Social Security, or apply in person.

Applying Online

If you are planning to apply online, you must get all your information ready beforehand. To apply online, you need to create an account at mySocialSecurity (if you don’t already have one). You’ll have to answer a few questions to create an account.

You should have the following things with you: your tax forms, a W-2, your mobile phone and a credit card. Once you have created your Social Security account, you can apply for your retirement and spousal benefits.

Among other things, the most important thing that you need to apply for Social Security is your date and place of birth. Also, you will need a permanent resident card number if you are not a U.S. citizen.

To apply for Social Security for the first time, you’ll also have to provide your marriage (divorce) details. For instance, you will be asked to provide the name of your current spouse; the name of prior spouse(s) if the marriage lasted for over 10 years or ended in death; the date of birth and the Social Security number of your spouse; your marriage date (both start and end), place and country (if married outside the U.S.) of marriage.

Sometimes, it is hard for some to get information on a former spouse, especially their Social Security number. Thus, you will need to get your spouse’s Social Security number if you’re divorcing.

Applying In Person Or By Phone

If you want to apply in person, you need to visit a Social Security Office. Use this link to find the Social Security Office nearest to you and its hours of operation (you’ll have to enter your Zip Code). Even if you are applying in person, you need to call first to make an appointment.

If you are coming from outside the U.S., it is recommended that you wait for about 7 to 10 days before applying. This is because there is usually a lag in information sharing between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Social Security, so if you apply too early, you may be asked to return at a later date when the authorities have your information to verify.

It must be noted that those who enter with a work authorized status are eligible to apply for a Social Security card.

Don’t forget to carry the following documents with you if you are visiting the Social Security Office for a Social Security card:

  • A copy of the Form SS-5 (available at
  • Your Passport.
  • Your original birth certificate.
  • A copy of your I-94 (available at

If you want to apply by phone, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time.

If you are applying for a Social Security card, your card will be mailed to you once your information is verified. In case you don’t receive the card within three weeks of applying, you must contact the Social Security Office at: 1-800-772-1213.

Applying For Other Benefits

In addition to Social Security benefits, you may also need to apply for other benefits. Detailed below is the process to apply for those benefits:

Disability Benefits

If needed, you can apply for disability benefits online. You must meet the following requirements to qualify for disability benefits:

  • You must be 18 or older.
  • You must not be receiving any benefits on your own Social Security record.
  • Most importantly, to get disability benefits, you must be unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to continue for a minimum of 12 months or result in death.
  • You must not have been denied disability benefits in the last 60 days. In case your application is denied, you have the option to make an online appeal.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 

SSI is a federal income program that uses general tax revenues to help people with little or no income, as well as those who are age 65 or older, blind, or have disabilities. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for SSI online using this link. You can also call the local Social Security office to apply if you are unable to apply online.


Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people aged 65 or older. People younger than 65 with disabilities, as well as those with end-stage renal disease, could benefit from Medicare as well. People not already receiving Social Security benefits can apply for Medicare three months before turning 65 years old. You need to visit the Medicare Benefits page to apply for Medicare.

Additionally, people can also apply online for any Extra Help they may need with the cost of medications.