Social Security Number


When completing a child’s visa application, families have always been asked whether they wish to have a social security number issued automatically. Historically, answering yes has not led to a card being sent. However, as of fall 2009, some families have started to receive a card automatically within a month after arrival. If this does occur, you can use this number for your child. You will need to visit a social security office in the future in order to update your child’s name and/or citizenship status. If you do not receive a card automatically, do not worry, simply follow directions below.

It is difficult to write a comprehensive guide for receiving a social security card for a child who has been adopted internationally. This is partially due to the legal differences among how children are adopted from different countries. It is also due to the fact that different Social Security Administration offices will interpret the same laws differently. Ideally, families could wait until proof of citizenship is available in the correct name. Visiting the social security office when this is available means that all steps can be accomplished at once.

The first step in determining your course of action is to determine the type of visa your child was granted. If you do not know this, simply refer to your child’s foreign passport.

For families whose child arrived on an IR-3 or IH-3 visa

Wait until your child’s Certificate of Citizenship is received. This will arrive automatically in your mail in your first months home.

Visit your local social security office and apply for a social security card. Since different offices sometimes ask for different items, it is best to bring all adoption related paperwork with you. Definitely include your child’s foreign adoption decree, foreign birth certificate and/or abandonment certificate, foreign or US passport, Certificate of Citizenship, and a photo ID for yourself (passport or driver’s license). Your child should be present. Please note that if your child’s adoption decree, foreign passport, and certificate of citizenship do not accurately reflect the name you have chosen for your child, you will need to make a second trip to the social security office once you have a US decree and/or birth certificate noting the name change. Social Security will simply change the name associated with the number, not the number itself. You obviously also have the option of simply waiting to apply until you have the name change.

For families whose child arrived on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa

  1. Finalize or re-finalize your child’s adoption in your state of residence
  2. Receive your child’s U.S. adoption decree and U.S. birth certificate
  3. Apply for and receive your child’s US passport (While a Certificate of Citizenship is also advised, it may take many months to receive).
  4. Apply for your child’s social security number. Remember to bring all items mentioned above, foreign decree, foreign abandonment certificate (if applicable), foreign birth certificate if available, and a photo ID for yourself. Your child should be present.

If you wish to claim your child on your taxes prior to receiving a social security number, you will need to apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN). Simply visit the IRS web site and download Form W-7A. If not yet received, please contact WHFC for a notarized placement letter to include with your application. The ATIN is a temporary number and the social security number should be applied for as soon as all US documents are available. For further information, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or Please note: you will need to include a photocopy of your child’s permanent resident card or passport with I-551 stamp.

What if the above recommendations do not work?

Occasionally, applying for a social security number or an ATIN is not successful. If you apply for a social security number for your child and are told your child is not eligible, you have two options:

  1. Apply for an ATIN. Make certain to ask the Social Security office for a denial letter to include with the application. You can then apply for a social security number after your adoption has been finalized or re-finalized and you have a US decree, birth certificate, and passport.
  2. Visit a different Social Security office to determine if they are more able to handle adoption cases.

If you apply for an ATIN and are denied, you should visit your local social security office with the rejection letter sent from the IRS.