TN 111 (01-24)

GN 00301.030 Acceptability of Documentary Evidence

A. Acceptable documentary evidence

For guidelines for evaluating souvenir certificates (SC) as proof of age (POA) and marriage, see GN 00301.050.

1. Original record

An original record is the actual written record of the event. The custodial source usually maintains the record.

2. Extract record

An extract record is a record in which the record custodian or SSA certifier takes certain information from the original record and certifies it for accuracy. Some States only maintain extracts when the original is too lengthy, e.g. divorce records.

Some States issue computer-generated birth certificates. These certificates fall under the category of “extract” certificates and are acceptable for our purposes provided the custodian properly certified the certificates, and have the needed audit trail information for us to verify at the record source. To determine whether sufficient audit trail information exists, see GN 00301.015B.1.b. If there is any indication that the claimant altered or corrected the extract record, see GN 00301.050C.2.d.

3. Certified photocopy

A certified photocopy is a photocopy of the original document in the custodian's possession to which the custodian affixes a signature, stamp, or seal with a statement attesting to the accuracy of the photocopy.

4. True and exact copy

A true and exact copy is a typed or handwritten replica of the original document, which the SSA certifier prepared. For information on when and how to make a true and exact copy, see GN 00301.030B.5.

B. Accepting evidence from claimant

1. Claimant submits evidence

A claimant must submit the original record or a custodian certified photocopy or extract of the original record. The record custodian must affix a signature, stamp, or seal to the photocopy or extract attesting to the accuracy of the document. An electronically certified copy is not acceptable when we require a certified document.    

  1. a. 

    Accept an uncertified photocopy from the claimant, only if they submit the original along with the photocopy. Compare the photocopy with the original to examine it for authenticity and alterations. For acceptability of photocopies of W-2s (Wage and Tax Statement) and tax returns, see GN 00301.030B.4.

  2. b. 

    Always ask for preferred evidence to establish a factor of entitlement, if it exists.

The rules on probative evidence do not always require preferred evidence. If all of the following apply, the adjudicator can accept an evidentiary standard other than preferred evidence depending on:

  • general availability of the evidence;

  • special difficulty in obtaining the preferred evidence;

  • importance of the fact to be proven;

  • possibility of independent verification of the essential elements of the factual situation; and

  • nature of the evidence offered.

In some instances, allegations by the claimant are sufficient.

2. Bible or family record

Always evaluate the original Bible or family record.

3. Court orders and decrees

Court orders or decrees kept in the custody of the claimant must contain one or more of the following:

  • raised stamp or affixed seal of the court;

  • statement on the order of decree that it was filed with the court and signed by the clerk of the court (we will accept a facsimile signature from the clerk of the court; however, a typed name is not sufficient if that is the only means used to certify the order or decree); or

  • judge's signature on the order or decree (we will accept a facsimile signature from the judge; however, a typed name is not sufficient if that is the only means used to certify the order or decree).

  • Computer-generated signatures and “electronically signed” documents from the custodian of record are acceptable.


  • Some jurisdictions only issue copies of the order or decree to the parties. This copy is acceptable as primary proof, providing it meet one of the certification requirements.

  • Some localities only issue uncertified copies of court orders or decrees. When we recognize the document as one issued by the local custodian, it may be accepted. We must document the file to that effect. For certification by custodian of the record, see GN 00301.080.

If there is no filing date shown, use the date the judge signed as the filing date, unless a precedent indicates the judge's signature is not the filing date.

4. Retained copy of a tax return or W-2

If the claimant presents a photocopy of a tax return as a “retained copy,” treat the photocopy as an original tax return if there is no reason to doubt that the photocopy is a retained copy. For acceptable evidence of self-employment income (SEI), see RS 01804.050. Accept a photocopy of a W-2 as evidence only if the photocopy meets the requirements of RS 01403.043C.

5. True and exact copy

If we need all of the information on the claimant's original document and we cannot retain the claimant's original document or the document will not photocopy; make a true and exact copy. We need the claimant’s original document:

  • as evidence in a prosecution or court case; or

  • when more detailed information is necessary to establish validity of a relationship, etc.

To make a true and exact copy take the following actions:

  • use a Report of Contact (RC);

  • include a statement that the copy is true and exact; and

  • include the SSA certifier’s signature, per instructions in GN 00301.095.

C. References

  • GN 00301.015 Acceptance of Evidence

  • GN 00301.050 Evaluating the Validity of Documents and Records

  • GN 00301.080 Certification by Custodian of the Record

  • RM 10213.001 Procedure for Verifying Non-DHS Evidence for an SSN Card

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GN 00301.030 - Acceptability of Documentary Evidence - 01/03/2024
Batch run: 01/03/2024