Why Do I Need My SSN When I Apply for a Marriage License?

Marriage License Requirements: Your Social Security Number

Bride signing wedding certificate
Nerida McMurray Photography/Photodisc/Getty Images

You decide to get married and you and your significant other head off to the county clerk's office to get a marriage license. You're on Cloud Nine, at least until the clerk asks you for your Social Security numbers. What? Why?

If you can't remember your number, how do you find out what it is? Will the clerk require proof? Here's the scoop. 

Why You Need Your SSN to Get Married 

The Social Security number was first "invented" in 1936 to track individuals' incomes. It's now a universal numbering system used for identification purposes in the U.S. 

It's a federal law that you must provide your Social Security number in exchange for a marriage license, so every state must comply whether it agrees with the edict or not. Title 42 USC Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, Part D, Section 666(a)(13) requires that Social Security numbers be recorded for any applicant for a professional license, a driver's license, an occupational license, a recreational license or a marriage license. The number must be recorded on the application.

In other words, don't feel singled out just because you want to get married. You can't drive without an SSN in the U.S., either, at least if you're an American citizen. And the county clerk isn't being picky or difficult. The U.S. government requires it. 

How to Find Your SSN

As a practical matter, most Americans of marrying age have been working and filing taxes, so the SSN requirement shouldn't be prohibitive. Even if you can't find your Social Security card, your number will appear on your tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, and any other documents that record financial transactions. Some clerks might simply take your word for it if you rattle off your number or write it down, but others may require proof. Again, it's a federal law, but implementation practices can differ by the state counties issuing the licenses.

If proof is required and you can't find your Social Security card, a copy of your tax return may suffice. If you don't have that, you can visit your nearest Social Security Administration office with proof of your identity to request a replacement card. You can find locations on the SSA website online.

If you're an adult and for some reason you do not have a Social Security number yet, visit your nearest Social Security Administration office and apply for one. You'll have to provide proof of citizenship, such as your birth certificate or passport. The SSA provides a full list of documentation requirements online. 

If you weren't born in the U.S., you'll need proof of your current citizenship or immigration status. This can include your green card (Form I-551), your arrival/departure record along with your current foreign passport, or a work permit (the I-766 card). You can then apply for a Social Security number. 

If You're Not a U.S. Citizen

Foreigners who apply for a marriage license in the U.S. have to show their passports. You may also need a photo ID and your birth certificate. Some localities may require that the birth certificate is translated.