Who is eligible for a driver's license or ID?
Most nonimmigrants in lawful status may apply for a driver's license or ID card. The nonimmigrant must present necessary supporting documents required to verify legal presence in the United States.
When can you apply for a driver's license or ID?
Please be aware of the following timing requirements before applying for a driver's license or ID:
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record must be in Active status when an F or J nonimmigrant applies for a benefit. A nonimmigrant with a record in any other status will not have success at applying for a benefit. This does not apply to H-1B, O-1, E-3 or TN Temporary Workers.
- Wait at least ten calendar days from the date of entry into the US to apply for a driver's license or ID. Most states and territories use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to determine a non-citizen's eligibility for many public benefits, including the issuance of a driver's license. The SAVE Program uses an online system to check a benefit applicant's immigration status information against records contained in the DHS immigration databases, including those housed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). Since the verification process is reliant on the underlying data source, including the nonimmigrant's arrival information, an applicant for a driver's license or ID must allow time for arrival data processing.
- Wait at least two business days from the activation date in SEVIS to apply for a driver's license or ID.
- Several states require that a nonimmigrant have at least six months left on the Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or the H-1B’s I-797 to be eligible for a driver's license. Temporary Workers with an original Receipt Notice from USCIS are eligible to extend their license.
What can you do before applying for a driver’s license or ID?
- Supporting documents must be consistent and reflect your proper name, date of birth and nonimmigrant status. Otherwise, the DMV will deny the application.
- Your status, name, and date of birth, must be correct in SEVIS (F and J status only)
- You must have an Active SEVIS record before applying and you must be within the program start and end dates in SEVIS (F and J status only)
What are the requirements for an accompanying dependent?
An accompanying dependent who applies for a driver's license or state ID should present supporting personal status documentation as well as status documentation of the primary visa holder. The DMV will look for consistency between the dependent's duration of status and that of the primary visa holder.
Sometimes DMV offices have difficulty when verifying dependents. The best way to alleviate this problem is for all nonimmigrants in this position to do the following:
- Go to the DMV office with the primary (F-1, H-1B or J-I) status holder
- Bring the following paperwork:
- The primary and dependent's most current Form I-94
- The primary and dependent's valid passport with visa (when applicable)
- Proof of relationship (e.g., marriage certificate)
- The primary and dependent's most current immigration document (I-797, DS-2019, I-20 etc)
Change of Status Issue
SEVP, SAVE and USCIS are aware of an issue affecting some former F and J nonimmigrants who have changed status, specifically to an H-1B status, and are unable to receive a valid initial verification response when applying for a benefit.
Based on the dynamic nature of the different data sources, SAVE can verify changes in status either in real time or in daily uploads, depending on the database. It is important to note that SAVE is reliant on the source databases, as well as the accuracy of that data.
If there is an instance when a SAVE response does not match the information on the applicant's immigration documents or there is a material discrepancy between information on an applicant's immigration documents and the SAVE response, the DMV should initiate an additional verification request.