Social security

How to apply for social security?

Find out how to apply for Social Security benefits and the documents you will need to provide during the application process.

3 min read

If you are ready to start taking Social Security benefits, you must meet the eligibility requirements to apply for benefits. Typically, you become eligible to collect benefits if you have accumulated sufficient work credits and reached the minimum age for Social Security. If you qualify, you have several options to apply for benefits.

You can apply for Social Security benefits online, by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting the local Social Security office. If you decide to apply for benefits online, go to and navigate to the “Apply for Benefits” page, read the terms of service, and click next to see “Getting Ready” instructions; this page lists all information you will need to apply for benefits. Once you have all the information ready, click the “start a new application” button to initiate the application process.

How to apply for Social Security Benefits

Here are the main ways you can use to apply for benefits:

Apply for benefits online

Applying for benefits online on the Social Security website is the most convenient way to complete your application. Follow these steps to apply for benefits online:

Go to the Social Security website on

Navigate to the "Apply for Benefits" page; read and agree to the “terms of service”, and click “Next”.

Go to the "Getting Ready" page and review the information you will be asked to provide.

Click the "Start a New Application" link to start the application process

You'll be asked several basic questions about yourself.

You will be directed to your "My Social Security" account. If you don't have an account, you can register an account by following the SSA instructions.

Confirm your answers to the questions, and complete your application by clicking the “Submit Now” button.

Call the SSA hotline

You can apply for Social Security benefits by calling the SSA hotline at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can call from Monday through Friday between 7.00 am to 7.00 pm.

Visit the local SSA office

If you are unable to apply for benefits online, you can go to the local Social Security office near your location. There are more than 1,230 field offices spread across the United States, and you can use the SSA office locator to find the field office nearest to you. Book an appointment prior to your visit to avoid waiting long hours at the field office, which may have long queues of people seeking services.

When to apply for benefits

The ideal age for taking Social Security benefits is the full retirement age, but you can decide to take benefits earlier or delay taking benefits until a later age. Here are the main ages for Social Security benefits:

Age 62

You can claim Social Security benefits as early as age 62. However, taking benefits before your full retirement age will reduce your benefits by as much as 30%. The maximum benefit you will receive at 62 in 2022 is $2,364.

Full retirement age

You will receive the full Social Security benefit if you claim benefits at the full retirement age, which falls between ages 66 to 67, depending on your year of birth. For example, if you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67. The maximum benefit you will receive at the full retirement age is $3,345 in 2022. However, if you don’t need the funds immediately, you can delay taking the benefits until a later time.

Delay until 70

You can delay taking Social Security benefits after the full retirement age until age 70 or later. You will receive increased benefits for each month you delay taking benefits until age 70; there is no additional benefit of waiting until after age 70 to take benefits. Your benefits will increase by 8% for each year you delay claiming benefits after the full retirement age until age 70.

Documents needed to apply for Social Security benefits

Here are the important documents that you must provide during the application process:

Social Security number- Every American worker has a unique Social Security Number (SSN), which helps track Social Security taxes and benefits payments.

Proof of identity. You must provide an original birth certificate or a certified copy from the agency that issued it. Photocopies are not acceptable.

Proof of U.S. citizenship- If you are a US citizen, you can provide a birth certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, or a US passport. If you are a non-US citizen, you will be required to provide current immigration documents.

W-2 Form-This is a tax form, also known as a wage statement. This document shows your annual income and how much you paid to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Photocopies are acceptable.

U.S. military service papers-If you have served in the military, make sure to provide the service papers. Photocopies are acceptable.

What to do after applying for Social Security benefits

Once you have applied for Social Security benefits, here are things you can do:

Look out for the SSA response

Once you apply for benefits, you should look out for Social Security communications. Mostly, Social Security uses registered mail for official communications, and you should check out your mail for any official communication regarding your application.

Check on your application status

You can check your application status by logging into your "My Social Security" account or by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 anytime from Monday through Friday between 7.00 am to 7.00 pm to inquire about your application status.

Withdrawing your application

If you decide to withdraw your Social Security application, you must do so within 12 months of its submission. When you withdraw your application, Social Security requires that you must repay any benefits you have collected.

How long does it take to get approved for Social Security?

Once you submit your benefits application, it can take three to five months for Social Security to decide on your application. If you have waited long enough, you should check your application status to see if there are missing documents that Social Security requires.