This section assumes you are:
- an American citizen
- already assigned a Social Security number
- changing your record’s legal name and/or gender marker
If you live in the United States but are not a citizen, please see my resources for foreign nationals. I also have international resources for those living outside the United States.
After you get a court order for name change, you should get your Social Security card changed next. It is and important identity document.
IMPORTANT: Changing your driver’s license or state ID is often not enough for legally binding matters and is not a substitute for a court order for name change.
It usually takes about a week to get a new card. Some states require a Social Security card for a driver’s license name change, but in others you can get a driver’s license changed with just your old license and an acceptable document indicating your name change (such as a court order).
You will probably need your Social Security switched over to change any employment and financial information. Some employers won’t let you switch any work documents until you have your new card actually in your possession.
1. Fill out the form (Form SS-5)
This form is available online:
You can also get it at any Social Security branch office. To find the nearest office, call 1-800-772-1213 (7 am to 7 pm) or search their website:
2. Collect evidence needed
You will need evidence showing your old and new names. Social Security requires original documents or certified copies made by the county clerk or other official whose duty it is to keep the records (hence the extra copies I got). Photocopies and notarized copies are not acceptable.
Common acceptable documents include:
- Court order for name change (this is my recommendation)
- Clinic, doctor, or hospital records (You might be able to use a letter from your therapist, for example, but to be safe and official, get the court order.)
- Driver’s license or state ID (if you can do this prior to Social Security in your state)
The following are usually used to establish former identity:
- School ID card, record, or report card
- Marriage or divorce record
- Military records
- Adoption records
- Church membership or confirmation record
- Health insurance card
- Insurance policy
- U.S. government or state government employee ID card
- U.S. passport
At their site they say: “We will NOT accept a birth certificate or hospital record as proof of your identity. We will accept other documents if they have enough information to identify you. Remember, we must see original documents or copies certified by the county clerk or other official who keeps the record.”
You write in your chosen name and below that your name at birth. If you have a certified copy of your court order, you can just mail it in. Otherwise, you may need to present original documentation or certified copies in person.
3. Wait for your new card to come in the mail.
Changing your Driver’s License and Social Security Card, in combination with your court order for name change, should be enough to switch over most official documents you’ll need for day-to-day living. The only tricky thing may be if you plan to leave the United States: most people have found switching the name and (especially) sex on their passport and birth certificate to be more strict. Many have needed confirmation of SRS from a doctor.
Changing gender on Social Security cards is discussed in the section above. Transgender workers sometimes have different gender markers in
employer records than what the Social Security Administration (SSA)
has in their database. When this occurs, those transgender employees can be the focus of no-match letters from SSA.
Can you change your Social Security number?
It is very hard to change your Social Security number. Some people in our community want to distance themselves from their old identity. It can sometimes be done.
You may be able to change your number if you have proven ongoing damages from identity theft or harassment and threats. In both cases, you will probably be required to prove these damages are ongoing with police reports or bank statements, etc. These are all of the reasons they allow:
- Sequential numbers assigned to members of the same family are causing problems;
- More than one person is assigned or using the same number;
- A victim of identity theft continues to be disadvantaged by using the original number;
- There is a situation of harassment, abuse or life endangerment; or
- An individual has religious or cultural objections to certain numbers or digits in the original number. (We require written documentation in support of the objection from a religious group with which the number holder has an established relationship.)
Keeping your number safe
Since you can almost never change your Social Security number, only give it out on a “need to know” basis. Only your employer, accountant, bank, investment broker, and IRS need your number. Insist that all others use an alternative number for identification or enrollment. Don’t write or print your number on checks. Do not allow your number to be used in on your insurance card or student id card. Insist that insurance companies and schools to use an alternate number for identifying you, like your driver’s license or state ID.
“No match” letters from Social Security
In the past, transgender workers sometimes had different gender markers in
employer records than what the SSA had in their database. When this occurred, those transgender employees were sometimes the focus of “no-match” letters from SSA. The National Center for Transgender Equality prepared a document on dealing with no-match letter issues and assisted in getting the policy changed.
Social Security Administration (faq.ssa.gov)
- How do I change my gender on Social Security’s records?
National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org)
Transgender Law Center (transgenderlawcenter.org)
Social Security Administration (May 18, 2018). Can I change my Social Security number? https://faq.ssa.gov/en-US/Topic/article/KA-02220
National Center for Transgender Equality (January 2008). Social Security Gender No-Match Letters and Transgender Employees. [archive] http://transequality.org/Resources/NoMatch_employees.pdf
National Center for Transgender Equality (June 2013). Transgender People and the Social Security Administration (PDF) [archive] https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/kyr/SSAResource_June2013.pdf
National Center for Transgender Equality (November 27, 2007). DHS To Drop “No-Match” Enforcement. [archive] https://transequality.org/press/releases/dhs-drop-no-match-enforcement
Disclaimer: This is legal talk, not legal advice. Laws vary by jurisdiction, and some of the information discussed on this page may not be applicable in your case. It is up to you to confirm any information herein by doing your own research.