How Do You Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits?

A person can apply for Social Security retirement benefits online, by phone, in person or from overseas, according to the Social Security Administration. Overseas applicants must file certain forms for foreign applicants and beneficiaries. These forms are available at the Social Security website.

Applicants at least 61 years and 9 months old may apply for Social Security retirement benefits. Information necessary to complete the application, as stated by the SSA, may include proof of date and place of birth or Permanent Resident Card number, names and dates of birth of children, records of military service, proof of employment or self-employment over prior two years, and direct deposit details.

Applicants for spouse's or divorced spouse's benefits also need related information, such as names of current and prior spouses, spouse's Social Security number, beginning and end dates of the marriage, and the place of the marriage. An applicant's local Social Security office may contact them for additional information.

The online application takes 10 to 30 minutes. Applicants who do not have all of the required information or documents are encouraged to apply anyway. A Social Security office may be able to help individuals get copies of certain documents. In some instances, a local Social Security office may contact the state Bureau of Vital Records and verify key information online at no cost to the applicant.