How do I apply for Social Security retirement benefits?

You should apply for retirement benefits three months before you want your payments to start. The easiest and most convenient way to apply for retirement benefits is by using our online application.

Apply for Retirement Benefits

 
We may need to see certain documents in order to pay benefits. If you apply online, a list of documents we need to see will appear at the end of the application, along with instructions on where to submit them. The documents we may ask for are:

  • your original birth certificate or other proof of birth [more info] (You may also submit a copy of your birth certificate certified by the issuing agency);
  • proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [more info];
  • a copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968; [more info]; and
  • a copy of your W-2 form(s) [more info] and/or self-employment tax return [more info] for last year.

For more information, go to Applying Online for Retirement Benefits.

You can also apply:

  • By phone - Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or
  • In person - Visit your local Social Security Office. (Call first to make an appointment.)

If you do not live in the U.S. or one of its territories you can also - Contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.

 

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Topic Information
  • Topic #: 34011-3734
  • Date Created: 03/17/2014
  • Last Modified Since: 10/17/2017
  • Viewed: 4021665

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