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On March 1, 2001, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began mandatory collection of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from license applicants. All recreational fishing or hunting licenses, including original, replacement or renewal licenses, will require the applicant's SSN.

Federal and state laws require WDFW to collect the SSN of license applicants. Under federal law 42 USC Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, Part D, Sec. 666(a)(13), enacted in 1996 to improve child support compliance, WDFW must collect SSNs from license applicants. This law also requires other state agencies to collect SSNs from applicants for professional and occupational licenses and drivers' licenses, to help enforce child support laws. In response to this federal law, in October 2000 the state Department of Licensing began collecting SSNs as part of its drivers' licensing procedures.

State legislation RCW 77.32.014 and RCW 74.20A.320, passed to enact the federal legislation, requires WDFW to suspend the recreational licenses of parents when requested by the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Child Support (DCS).

DCS has statewide responsibility for enforcing child support laws, and maintaining records of parents who are in arrears on child support payments.DCS states it will work as quickly as possible to reinstate a license after the child support debt is satisfied or a payment agreement is negotiated.

In the past, WDFW was unable to comply with the SSN collection requirement for license applicants because the recreational licensing system did not have an automated, centralized database. Instead, WDFW sent letters to parents, identified by DCS, as having at least six months of past due child support payments and no repayment agreements. These letters informed parents that if they held recreational licenses, WDFW would suspend their licenses until DCS requested reinstatement.

As of March 1, 2001, a new, computerized recreational licensing system, known as the Washington Interactive Licensing Database (WILD), is scheduled to go into operation. The WILD system includes a database. The database allows WDFW to comply with the federal law requiring SSN collection as part of the licensing process.

Following are some frequently asked questions about the Social Security Number (SSN) collection requirement for recreational license applicants:

When does the Social Security Number (SSN) collection requirement go into effect?

Collecting SSNs from applicants for fishing and hunting licenses, tags, and permits began when the automated WILD licensing system went into operation March 1, 2001. The same requirement is in effect for persons choosing to buy recreational licenses by telephone, and will also be in effect for license sales over the Internet, scheduled to begin May 1, 2001.

Who has to provide their SSN?

All applicants for recreational licenses, tags, and stamps must provide an SSN with the following exceptions:

  • Children under 15 are not required to provide a SSN.
  • Applicants who are not U.S. citizens and do not have a SSN are also exempt from the requirement.
  • Others in special situations should contact WDFW at (360) 902- 2464 for additional information.

Why do I have to give my SSN?

It is a federal law, 42 USC Chapter 7, Subchapter IV, Part D, Sec. 666(a)(13). Enacted in 1996, the law requires Social Security Numbers to be recorded for "any applicant for a professional license, driver's license, occupational license, recreational license or marriage license."

Will my SSN be printed on my recreational license or be visible on the license sales terminal?

No. Your SSN will only be entered the first time a license is purchased with the new computerized WILD license vending system. Your SSN is not printed on the license document. Your SSN is not displayed on the WILD computer screen after it is first entered.

Can I refuse to disclose my SSN?

No. Your SSN must be collected in order to complete a first-time application for a recreational license.

Do I have to show my Social Security card when I apply for a license?

No. You are only required to state your Social Security Number. You are not required to show your Social Security card.

Do I have to provide my SSN if I buy my recreational license over the telephone or the Internet?

Yes. If you choose to purchase recreational licenses using telephone or Internet licensing options, you will be required to enter your SSN as part of the first license transaction.

What about commercial fishing licenses?

The commercial fishing license is an occupational license, and is subject to the same federal law requiring SSN collection for other licenses. WDFW has collected SSNs from all persons seeking to renew commercial fishing licenses since 1998. Commercial fishers will continue to be required to provide their SSNs at the time of license renewal.

How do I know my SSN is secure?

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) takes its responsibility to safeguard personal information very seriously, and has taken several steps to ensure your SSN is secure. Your SSN will not be visible on the license document or on the WILD licensing system computer screen after it is first entered. In addition, license holders' SSNs are exempt from public disclosure requirements. Only authorized WDFW personnel will have access to SSNs.

How does my SSN help with child support compliance?

Collecting SSNs is part of a nationwide effort to improve compliance with child support orders. If a parent owes at least six months of back child support and has not entered into an agreement to pay his/her child support, the Division of Child Support (DCS) may request that licensing agencies suspend an existing license or not issue a new license. The WILD licensing system's computer terminals are programmed to block the sale of recreational licenses to those individuals designated by DCS, as non-compliant with a child support order.

What happens when a license purchase is blocked?

A recreational license will not be issued. No information about why the license sale was blocked will appear on the WILD vending system computer screen, or otherwise be available to the license vendor. When a sale is blocked, dealers need to contact WDFW for additional information. WDFW licensing staff will provide the appropriate Division of Child Support contact information to callers. The applicant will be not be able to buy a recreational license until WILD receives a release from the Division of Child Support.

What happens if a parent pays his/her child support debt or makes a repayment agreement with DCS just prior to a recreational license purchase?

It can take at least one full day for a license suspension release to be sent to state licensing agencies such as WDFW and entered into the WILD system. WDFW staff, who are available to respond to questions about blocked recreational licenses, are on duty during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Thus, it is possible that a parent whose license suspension release is sent late in the week – on a Thursday afternoon or a Friday – could be prevented from purchasing a recreational license until Monday of the following week.

What if I have a question about my child-support records?

The Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Child Support, is responsible for enforcing child support laws and maintaining records of parents who are in arrears on child support payments. If you have questions about your child support status, contact DSHS toll-free at 1-800-457-6202. For more information on the license suspension program, please visit the Division of Child Support web site at: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/dcs/Services/wdfw.asp