Beginning May 2, you’ll have to have a Social Security card if you want to do lovey-dove the legal way in Cullman County — at least, if you’re an American citizen. Non-citizens have a separate set of rigid guidelines if they wish to be wed here.
In an effort to curb an increase in the number of potentially fraudulent applications for a marriage license — itself a legal document that can be used to prove one’s identity, establish credit and apply for government services — the Cullman County probate judge’s office will begin requiring all U.S. citizens wishing to get married to present a Social Security card at the time they request a license.
Non-citizens must present both a photo identification issued by the U.S. government, as well as either a green card, a visa or a photo passport in English.
The change in policy requiring a Social Security card will take effect Monday, May 2. The requirements applying to non-citizens are already in effect.
Probate judge Leah Patterson Lust said Monday the change locally is one that many probate judges’ offices statewide are beginning to implement, since state law does not provide a uniform set of guidelines establishing what pieces of identification marriage license applicants must present.
Too, the storing of marriage license applications in a database, whether electronic or on paper, is still done at the local level, and clerks in a probate office have no way of checking or verifying the legitimacy of Social Security numbers — other than to require supplemental identification at the time an applicant requests a marriage license.
“This is not targeting a specific type of applicant or a specific group,” said Lust. “It’s something we’re seeing more and more of, from a lot of different types of people — people can come in here, give a false social security number to one of our clerks, and walk out with a legal document that can be used to establish a false identity.
“The Code of Alabama does not provide a specific way of handling it, and so a number of probate judges have been in communication and decided to institute some changes to their policies so that marriage licenses are not abused by people just wanting to create an identity for themselves or establish a paper trail of citizenship, if they are not currently a citizen of the United States.”
The change alters the office’s current policy, which simply requires that applicants provide their social security number without presenting an actual card. That offered an opportunity to persons of ill intent to provide a falsified number, which, once documented on a marriage license, can be used to falsely attach the number, using legal documentation, to a person’s identity.
The probate office is announcing the policy change more than two weeks before it’s implemented so that people without a social security card can have enough time to acquire one before the new policy takes effect. Obtaining a Social Security card typically takes a couple of weeks. The process, which is free of charge, can be begun by either visiting the social security website at www.socialsecurity.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213 and requesting a card.
Read the complete story in the Friday, April 8, 2011 print edition of The Cullman Times.
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.