The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted the normal process of changing the name on your social security card. Pandemic or not, your name change cannot wait, so you must learn the new protocols.
Note: This article doesn't focus on how to change the name on your social security card, but how COVID affects the process, by mail or in person.
Are social security offices open?
Effective March 17, 2020, because of Coronavirus, all 1,300+ local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public until further notice.
They don't allow walk-ins. Appointments are available for special cases. This is to protect people with underlying medical conditions and older age groups.
If you phone any local SSA field office, their prerecorded message explains the rationale behind their closures.
The Social Security Administration is taking steps to protect the public and our employees during the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic. Until further notice, offices are open to provide limited, dire need, in person services by appointment only. We will continue offering services by phone and online.Pre-recorded message transcription on closing field offices.
Update: Office closures are still in effect in August 2021. We'll update this page when the status changes or face-to-face services get reinstated.
How do I make an appointment?
You can no longer schedule an appointment with any social security office to change your name in person, as it's not considered a "dire need" service.
Telephone, fax, email, or video won't work. Their online services preclude this as well. You must mail your forms.
When will I get my replacement social security card?
Before COVID, you'd receive your replacement social security card by mail within 7 to 14 days. Current turnaround time has ballooned up to two months (sometimes longer). Delays vary across offices.
What's causing the delay?
Social security offices have gotten slower for three reasons:
1. Mail is behind
Since most in-person business has halted, workload has shifted to mail. The growing influx of shipments remains challenging for agents and in-house mail handlers.
Mail tends to "sit" in office for several days because of COVID. This creates a major processing backlog. There are often boxes of unopened deliveries to sift through daily.
2. Your local office has 30 days to process your application
Name change is but one subset of the SSA's vast duties. Your application must co-exist among cases involving immigration and social security benefits.
It can take up to 30 days to review your paperwork and scan your identification and original or certified copy name change documents—marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order—into the system for dispatch to the Central Office near DC.
Your local office will send back your personal documents once they've done their part. Your new card will arrive later in a separate envelope.
Note: Your returned documents may come back folded. Be cognizant of this possibility when mailing originals or keepsakes of sentimental value.
3. Central Office has two weeks to mail your card
The SSA's "Central Office" near DC and Baltimore will mail out your replacement card around two weeks after your local office approves your application.
Note: Your social security number will not change on your new card.
Can the SSA expedite my name change?
There are no expedited or priority options. The best thing to speed up your place in the queue is to fill out your application with accuracy and include correct ID and proof of name change.
How does social security affect other name changes?
Changing the name with the Social Security Administration could disrupt your name change with other government agencies, as we'll discuss next.
1. Affect on driver's license name change
You can't change the name on your driver's license until the SSA has updated your social security record. Your DMV (or equivalent agency) can verify this electronically.
2. Affect on passport name change
You can update the name on your passport through the State Department before, during, or after you correct the name on your social security card or driver's license.
3. Affect on filing taxes
After the SSA updates your name within their system, they'll notify IRS of the change. File your taxes under whichever name is current.
The Coronavirus pandemic is a seismic event that has afflicted every facet of society and government. The SSA is not immune to its spread.
Changing your name through social security's in-person service is no longer possible. You must do it by mail. Wait times are longer than the typical 7 to 14 days.
If you're getting frustrated and impatient, call your local social security office toll-free to request a status update.