Photo ID & Driver's License
- a document checklist

A driver's license, a learner's permit and a non-driver photo ID all fulfill the definition of a government-issued photo ID. As previously mentioned, all three types of documents are issued by the same agency - the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or equivalent - of the state you live in.

Each state will have its own rules and nuances on the document checklist it accepts or does not accept for obatining any of these IDs. It is therefore imperative you visit the DMV site of the state you live in, prior to beginning the application process. Do note, all documents must be originals - attested photocopies are not accepted (but duplicates issued by the original issuing agency are).

Having said that, here is a general checklist of documents applicable to a typical immigrant or work visa migrant moving to America, and who is not a US citizen. This checklist will more or less work for most states in the US and is valid for a Photo ID or Learner's Permit

  • Unexpired foreign passport with an I-94 or I-94W (Arrival-Departure Record) OR Green Card / I-551 stamp in passport
  • Social Security Card
  • Proof of residence in the state

That's it!

If applying for a driver's license, you will also need to bring your unexpired learner's permit from that or any other US state.

'Proof of residence' can be established by any one of various documents like a fixed utility bill (not mobile phone bill), IRS return, pay stub, USPS address change confirmation and so on. As I said, there are nuances and you must read up on your state's DMV site.

If you are a US citizen, a variety of alternative documents like a US passport or Certificate of Naturalization will do, in place of the foreign passport with visa.

If special circumstances are involved (e.g. name change), you must bring documents supporting that (e.g. marriage certificate or court order).

If applying for a dependent on an H4 or L4 (spouse or child), you need a marriage certificate or birth certificate (clearly showing relationship to primary visa holder) in addition to the above documents.

If you're a student (F1/F2 or J1/J2), you need to show a valid SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 as well.

If you're on any kind of non-immigrant visa, DMV will likely issue you an ID valid only till the expiration of your allowed legal stay in the US.

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