How to get a Social Security card and prove U.S. citizenship for a foreign-born adopted child

Parents of adopted children born outside the United States need Social Security numbers for their children. The law recently changed and these children "automatically" become U.S. citizens. But here's the problem. The child does not have any proof of U.S. citizenship and Social Security requires proof of U.S. citizenship for the child. You only have immigration documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). What do you do now?

Bring us the documents issued by DHS when the child arrived in the United States. We'll assign a Social Security number, but the record will not show the child is a U.S. citizen. Later, when you get your child's U.S. citizenship document, bring it to us and we'll update your child's record to show his or her U.S. citizenship. If your child already has a Social Security number, the number does not change when we update the record.

You can use your child's birth certificate to prove his or her age, but you still need an identity document for the child. Social Security must always see the original document or a copy that is certified by the agency that issued the original document. Documents you can use when you apply for a card for an infant or young child include:

  • The adoption record
  • A United States DHS immigration document
  • Doctor, clinic or hospital records
  • Daycare center or school records
  • Religious record (e.g., baptismal record)

In addition, when you apply for a card for a child, we must also see proof of your identity and that you are the proper applicant.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000, effective February 27, 2001 grants an adopted child, immigrating to the United States, "automatic" citizenship. The parent may apply for proof that the child is a U.S. citizen. If you want the Social Security record to show that your child is a U.S. citizen, apply for a Certificate of Citizenship from DHS or a U.S. passport from the Department of State for your child. We can use either document as proof of your child's U.S. citizenship.

If you want to complete the application for a Social Security number before you visit a local office, go to Application for a Social Security Card.