Applying for a driver’s license or state identification card – Part I

101

By Michael Phulwani
The US Department of Homeland Security, Student Exchange Visitor Program has published a fact-sheet in July 2009 to provide F, M or J nonimmigrants and their respective school/program officials with basic information on obtaining a driver’s license or state identification (ID). This fact-sheet is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the driver’s license or state ID application process. Because each state has unique requirements and processes, nonimmigrants should familiarize themselves with the regulations, policies and other applicable information of the state where they reside. Web site addresses for a few state department of motor vehicles (DMV) offices are provided below for the convenience of our readers:

California:  http://www.dmv.ca.gov/
Michigan:  http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-1627—,00.html
New Jersey:  http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/
New York:  http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/
Pennsylvania: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/centers/licenseIDCenter.shtml
Washington, DC: http: //dmv.dc.gov/main.shtm
Who is eligible for a driver’s license or ID?
Any F, M or J nonimmigrant mat apply for a driver’s license or ID as long as he/she is in lawful status or presents necessary supporting documents required to verify legal presence in the United States.
What should an F, M or J nonimmigrant do before applying for a state driver’s license or ID?
A nonimmigrant student or exchange visitor should:
l Become aware of the appropriate state requirements;
l Contact a designated school officials (DSO) or responsible officer (RO) as applicable. The DSO or RO will provide guidance and assist in familiarizing the nonimmigrant with the expectations of the DMV, as well as explain the general process for obtaining a driver’s license or ID.
l Wait a minimum of 10 calendar days from the date of entry into the United States before applying for a driver’s license or ID.
What can DSOs and ROs do to help?
A number of states use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program to determine nonimmigrant eligibility for many public benefits, including obtaining a driver’s license. Current arrival information, taken from the I-94, Arrival/ Departure Record is essential to this verification process and it takes time for information to be distributed from the port-of-entry information to SAVE. Encourage students to wait for a minimum 10 days from the date of entry into the United States before applying for a driver’s license.
Most states require a nonimmigrant to have a Social Security Number (SSN) or a Social Security Administration letter of Administration (SSA) letter of ineligibility to applying for a driver’s license or ID.
Several states require that the nonimmigrant have at least six months left on the Firm I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1 Student Status – Academic and Lan-guage Students, or Form DS-2019, Certificate if Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1),  to be eligible for a driver’s license.
Be sure the nonimmigrant’s information is entered correctly in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Systems (SEVIS), including nonimmigrant status, name and date of birth (DOB), before sending the nonimmigrant to the DMV office.
The nonimmigrant’s name must match on all supporting documentation. The DMV will deny any nonimmigrant’s application if the supporting documents are inconsistent or do not reflect the proper name, DOB and nonimmigrant status.
What documentation must a nonimmigrant present to the DMV:

In general, the nonimmigrant should present:

l Passport
l Form I-94
l Form I-20
l Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if applicable.
l Form I-797, Notice of Approval, if applicable.
l Social Security number or Social Security Administration letter of ineligibility.
What should a nonimmigrant do if there is an error on the passport?
The nonimmigrant should consult his or her embassy     to find out how to correct, update or renew  her passport.
What should the nonimmigrant do if his or her name on the passport does not match the name on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019?
The nonimmigrant should consult with the DSO to correct the Form I-20 or with the RO to change the Form DS-2019 to reflect the name on the passport prior to applying for a driver’s license or state ID.
l When the DSO creates the Form I-20 or an RO creates the Form DS-2019, he or she should enter the name in the SEVIS exactly as it appears on the nonimmigrant’s passport or national identification card.
l If the nonimmigrant has only one name, it must be used as the last name. Use the letters FNU (First Name Unknown) in the First Name field. 
l Spacing is as important as spelling and must be consistent. For instance, systems will not recognize Mc Millan and McMillan as the same name;
l Hyphens must not be used;
l Consistency with Capi-talization is helpful, but not critical;
l Name entries must be in English and must use standard US characters;
l F, M or J nonimmigrants must be consistent in how they enter last, first and middle names;
Is a nonimmigrant has a number of government records where the spelling of the name is inconsistent; government officials are likely to interpret the errors as a deliberate attempt at misrepresentation.
To be concluded.

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