TN 87 (12-23)

RM 10205.025 Proper Applicant for a Social Security Card

This section contains policy about who qualifies as a proper applicant and procedures for filing an application for a Social Security card.

This policy is not to be confused with the criteria for determining who can have access to, or authorize disclosure from, the Numident record. For disclosure criteria, see GN 03340.000.

This section is also not to be confused with policy regarding who can file a benefit claim or receive benefit payments. For information on who is a proper applicant for claims and payments, see GN 00204.003.

A. Definition of a proper applicant for an SSN card

Proper applicants for an SSN card are those who may file an application for an SSN card on behalf of themselves or on behalf of others who are physically or mentally unable to file on their own behalf.

In some situations, there may be more than one proper applicant. For example, for a child under age 18 living at home with both parents, the child and both parents could each be considered proper applicants for a card on behalf of the child.

NOTE: Representative payees for number holders (NH) are only proper applicants when they qualify under the guidelines set out in this subchapter.

B. Determining the proper applicant

NOTE: Applicants for original Social Security numbers (SSNs) who are age 12 or older are required to appear in person, whether or not they file on their own behalf (See Mandatory In-Person Interview for SSN Applicants Age 12 or Older, RM 10205.110).

1. Adults filing on own behalf

Applicants, age 18 or over, who are physically and mentally capable of completing an in-person interview or reading and completing an application for a Social Security card must file the application on their own behalf.

2. Children filing on own behalf

If physically and mentally capable of completing an in-person interview or paper application for a Social Security card, children of any age may file on their own behalf.

3. Other applicant filing on behalf of NH

When individuals are unable to file an application on their own behalf, an applicant who can establish relationship to and custody/responsibility for the individual, and who is highest on the priority list below should file the application:

  1. a. 

    A court-appointed legal guardian (individual or other entity) always has priority over any other proper applicants;

  2. b. 

    A parent (natural, adoptive, or step) with custody of a child;

  3. c. 

    Administrator of an individual's (adult or child) estate;

  4. d. 

    A brother, sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin with custody of a child;

  5. e. 

    A State agency (including State foster care and child protective-service agencies, State mental institutions or hospitals, or State adoption agencies) or a State-licensed agency (including State contractors and private adoption agencies) if it has legal custody of the individual (adult or child); or

  6. f. 

    An individual who applies on behalf of another individual (adult or child) who can establish relationship and responsibility.

Only consider someone lower on the list when no one higher on the list of proper applicants exists. You can generally determine the proper applicant by establishing who has custody or responsibility. In extenuating circumstances, with Regional Office approval, you may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

C. Acceptable evidence of relationship/custody/responsibility

You must establish relationship, custody, and responsibility in every case when the person who signs (either electronically through SSNAP or on a paper SS-5) the application is not the person to whom we will issue the card. Once it is clear that no one higher on the priority list exists and you have established relationship, custody, and responsibility, consider the individual a proper applicant.

When the applicant is not a proper applicant, or cannot establish relationship and custody, return the application and evidence and provide the individual with a written notice per Providing Written Notice and Second Review When SSN or Card Cannot Be Issued, RM 10215.110.

D. Refer to detailed evidence requirements in the following sections

Proper Applicant Type


Legal Guardian

RM 10205.030

Parent with Custody of Child under Age 18

RM 10205.035

Administrator of Estate of the Number Holder

RM 10205.040

Relative with Custody of Child under Age 18

RM 10205.045

State Agency with Legal Custody

RM 10205.050

Individual Who can Establish Relationship and Responsibility

RM 10205.055

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RM 10205.025 - Proper Applicant for a Social Security Card - 12/27/2023
Batch run: 12/27/2023