Maybe you lost your wallet at the bar. Or maybe you can’t find your birth certificate ever since you moved across country and forgot which box you packed it in for safe keeping. Whatever the reason, not having ID is a major problem since you need it to travel, get a job and vote.
Some of the key pieces of ID you’ll want to make sure you have include a social security card, birth certificate and driver’s license or state ID card. Having a passport is also helpful to ensure you’re able to easily cross borders or prove citizenship.
If you lose any of these key forms of ID, it’s best to act as quickly as possible to get a new copy — especially because you need some kind of proof of ID in order to get missing IDs replaced. If you’re missing just one kind of ID but have other proof of who you are, getting your missing identification replaced is much easier than if you have no ID at all.
Here’s how to replace the most important kinds of ID:
What to do if you lose your birth certificate
Your birth certificate is one of the most important types of ID because you’ll need it to get other forms of identification. Typically, a copy of your birth certificate can be obtained from the vital records office in the state where you were born. This list of vital records offices is broken down by state so you can find your relevant office.
In some states, you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate even if you don’t have any other ID, according to USA.gov. In states where no proof of ID is necessary, there are other requirements such as making a sworn statement of your identity, submitting utility bills or a letter from the government addressed to you or having your parents submit a notarized letter and a copy of their own photo ID.
Keep in mind that there are fees associated with obtaining a copy of your birth certificate. Fee waivers may be available for military members, their spouses and dependent children. It can also take a long time to get a copy — around nine to 15 weeks in Pennsylvania, for example.
What to do if you lose your Social Security card
You can easily request a replacement Social Security card online as long as you’re at least 18, a U.S. citizen and have a U.S. mailing address. You’ll also need either a state ID or a driver’s license if you have one from Washington, D.C., or one of 20 states, including California, Florida and Pennsylvania. Provided you have these documents available, create a my Social Security account (or log into your account if you have one) and request a replacement Social Security card online.
If you don’t have these documents, you’ll have to go to your local Social Security office. You’ll need to bring proof of your identity with you, including either a U.S. passport, a driver’s license or state ID card. If you don’t have these forms of ID, other acceptable proof of identity includes an employee ID card, a school ID, a health insurance card for an insurer other than Medicare or a U.S. military ID card. The proof of your identity you provide must not be expired and must show your name along with age or birthdate and preferably should include a recent picture.
You’ll also have to provide proof of citizenship, which the SSA indicates must be a passport, birth certificate, hospital record of your birth or religious record created prior to your 5th birthday.
What to do if you lose your driver’s license
If you lose your driver’s license or state ID card, you can get it replaced online, by mail or by visiting the local government agency that issues licenses. Your options for getting a replacement depend upon the state where you live and other factors including your age and whether you’ve recently had a license replaced. You will need acceptable proof of your identity and will have to pay a fee ($27 in California, for instance) for the replacement license.
While state laws can vary on providing proof of identity and proof of eligibility to drive, you will need original copies of documents like your birth certificate; a non-expired permit, license or state-issued ID card; a passport, a certificate of citizenship; a professional license; a utility bill; a health insurance card or a union card.
If you have a passport or birth certificate, this is typically sufficient to get your lost license replaced. But, if you don’t have an official form of ID, you’ll likely need several other documents with your signature, full name, address and picture.
What to do if you lose your passport
If you lose your passport, it’s important to immediately report it lost so you don’t become a victim of identity theft. You can report the passport lost or stolen online, via phone or by mail, according to the U.S. Department of State.
If you are in the U.S. and need a replacement very quickly because you’re traveling within two weeks, you can get your passport replaced by visiting a passport agency or center. If you aren’t traveling within two weeks, you can get your replacement by going to a passport acceptance facility. You will be required to submit Form DS-11 in person.
Proof of citizenship is required and could include a birth certificate, hospital certificate, notarized affidavit of birth from older relatives or published birth announcements. Proof of ID, including a current or former passport, a driver’s license or government employee ID card will also be needed, according to the DS-11 Form. The fee for the replacement of a lost and stolen password is $110 for an adult or $80 for a child.
What to do if you have no ID at all
Getting replacements for many of these forms of ID will require you to already have another form of ID. That’s the catch-22 many people fall into.
If you have absolutely no identification, Connecticut 2-1-1, a service facilitating connections to local government programs and supports, recommends that you first obtain your replacement birth certificate. Then, you can use that to get a new license or state ID, which you can use to get your Social Security card.
Unfortunately, there are costs associated with all of these processes. Some states do provide the opportunity to get a free ID card, but you’ll need documents like your birth certificate to get one. Programs like the Foundry’s ID Ministry, if they exist in your area, can help you if you cannot afford the costs of obtaining an ID or if you don’t know where to start with the process.