Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted tips for foreign nationals in F, M, or J, status on applying for driver’s licenses and social security numbers. The key is not to apply too early. The memo, posted January 17, 2012, recommends that students wait at least 10-15 days before applying at the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) and/or Social Security Administration (SSA) to allow all related government “databases time to update.”
During the waiting period, students should review all of their forms and information and then meet with their school’s designated school official (DSO) or sponsor’s responsible officer (RO) or alternate responsible officer (ARO) to correct or update information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and “place your record in Active status.” Students and exchange visitors should wait at least 2 federal business days for SEVIS to universally update their status. ICE also recommends that students or exchange visitors consult with their DSO or RO/ARO regarding requirements relevant to their status to apply for a driver’s license in their respective state and/or Social Security Number (SSN), if applicable.
Not all students qualify for an SSN. Generally students will only qualify for an SSN, if the school has granted them the authority to work. The SSA will not issue an SSN for the sole purpose of enrolling or registering with a school. An F-1 Student must present a letter of employment and an annotated Form I-20 authorizing the student for work. Foreign nationals in J status should consult with their RO/ARO on whether a letter of employment is necessary to obtain a social security number.
Each State DMV may vary on the documentation necessary to obtain a driver’s license. Most states will require a foreign national in F, M, or J status to present the following: (1) Form I-20 or Form DS-2019; (2) Form I-94 Arrival Departure Record; (3) Passport (with visa, if applicable); and (4) proof of legal presence or residence. The Colorado DMV follows the general rule outlined in the ICE memo and requires documentation that “proves identity, age, name, and lawful presence in the United States.”
The ICE memo also provides the following links for additional information:
Driving in the United States: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/resources/driving/
Obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN): http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/resources/social-security-number/
DMV Fact Sheet: http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/dmv_factsheet.pdf
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