Can You Laminate Your Social Security Card?
Paper is a very delicate material and this can especially be a problem when you have something recorded upon it. Precious documents that become exposed to water for example can be ruined and this can lead to issues.
There are ways of protecting paper documents such as lamination and many people use this process to preserve important documents protecting it from damage.
What Is Lamination?
Lamination is a manufacturing process that sees a composite material surrounded by additional layers of differing materials including plastic. This creates a protective coating around the original material that protects it from damage, giving it structural strength and stability.
You can laminate a number of materials but in this instance we will focus on its use to protect paper. Laminating pictures or documents with clear plastic provides rigidity, strength and protection. This prevents the paper or picture from becoming creased, faded, damaged or stained.
Why Would You Want to Laminate a Social Security Card?
Social Security cards are made of a similar fibrous paper to that used to make banknotes. This means that it is easily torn, folded and subsequently prone to damage. It is also one of the most important pieces of identification an individual can possess.
With its undoubted importance it may seem like a no-brainer decision to consider laminating this vulnerable rectangle of paper. Our driver's licenses and bank cards are laminated so why not our Social Security cards?
Can You Laminate a Social Security Card?
You absolutely can laminate a Social Security card. There is no law prohibiting it and it would physically work. The Social Security Administration however specifically suggests that you should not do this. This instruction will be found both on SSA.gov and on the back of your actual card.
There are valid reasons for this instruction by the Social Security Administration, the biggest of which is that it negates security messages inherent in the card. As part of the design of Social Security cards there is an anti-copy pattern on the card and in the banknote paper from which it is made.
These patterns are how we can tell if a Social Security card is real or fake, as a photocopy would not display this feature. If you laminate a Social Security card you hide these patterns and you can not confirm if it is real or fake.
If you cannot prove the card is real it is possible that it would be rejected if you were to need to use it for identification purposes. This is especially problematic if you are starting a new job and you need to confirm you can legally work. As you might irreparably damage the card by removing the lamination you would possibly have to order a new card to be able to confirm your eligibility to work.
Is It Illegal to Laminate a Social Security Card?
If you do decide to go against advice from the Social Security Administration, fear not they will not come for you. It is not illegal for you to laminate the card, essentially it belongs to you and you can do what you wish with it.
You can draw on the card, rip it up, burn and yes even laminate it if you so wish. You of course would be doing so with the knowledge that your actions may invalidate it as a form of identification. The card needs to be legible, unaltered and be able to display the security features that are built in.
There are no legal ramifications to laminating the card but ultimately you may find yourself needing to remove the lamination so you can use the card for its intended purpose. With care you can remove lamination using heat and a delicate touch.
How Best to Protect Your Social Security Card
If you have realized that lamination may not be the best way to protect your Social Security card you probably now need some different viable options.
Leave the Card at Home Unless It’s Needed
Social Security cards are not like IDs or passports, you don’t really need to carry them unless you know you will physically have to show them. In most cases merely knowing your Social Security number is all you need.
It is therefore best practice to keep your card locked away safely at home perhaps in a lockbox or a safe. If it is always on your person you run the risk of it being stolen or lost but if it remains in your home in a safe location away from the risk of floods and damage you really don’t need lamination.
If you need the actual card to show your new employer you should take it with you that day and return it back to its safe location at home when you are done.
A Plastic Sleeve
Laminating is like a plastic sleeve that is stuck to the Social Security card itself. This makes it hard to remove and unreadable in terms of the hidden security patterns. You could however use a plastic sleeve such as the type that baseball cards are often stored in.
These are very cheap little sleeves that allow you simply slide the card in and out as needed. As long as you can remove the card from the sleeve you can use it as an official document to prove your identity in certain circumstances.
You might even want to store it in a sleeve just in case water manages to get at the documents. This will offer some level of protection against water damage while still leaving the card easily accessible.
Protecting Other Documents
You might be considering lamination for other documents. But allow me to advise you this might not be the best option, birth certificates, marriage records and passports might seem tempting targets for a laminating but you really shouldn’t.
These documents could become unusable for official purposes if you laminate them so it is best to find alternative methods to protect them that will not cause potential damage.
Keep Them in a Safe Place
It is rare that you will need to carry a copy of your marriage certificate or birth certificate so there’s no real reason to have them on your person. Keep these documents either safe at home in a lockbox or safe or as an alternative you might rent a safety deposit box at your bank.
Try and find a safe location that is both water and fireproof should the worst happen. You may not need these documents often so they can stay locked away for years safely until you eventually do require them.
Laminating Social Security cards is easy and there are no laws against doing so. However, it is an unwise way of protecting the card as the lamination itself can hide the built in security features of the card. Without being able to see these security features the card can not be confirmed as being real.
If you can’t prove your Social Security is a real copy it becomes useless for identification purposes and is therefore no help should you actually need it. The Social Security Administration says pointedly on both their website and on the reverse of the card that you should not laminate it.
So in this case just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Reference SSA Locator
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"". SSA Locator, https://ssalocator.com/blog/can-you-laminate-your-social-security-card/. Accessed 4 October, 2022
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