How to Get a Driver License Without an SSN

Updated on April 10, 2024
At a Glance:
  • U.S. driver’s licenses serve as driving permits and key IDs.

  • While typically requiring a Social Security Number (SSN), some states now issue licenses without it.

  • This change aids immigrants, especially those undocumented.

  • States like California, New York, and Utah offer such licenses, with others considering similar legislation.

  • The process involves proving legal U.S. residency and passing driving tests.

  • Licenses also facilitate tasks like bank account setup and domestic travel.
  • A U.S. driver’s license is both a driving permit and a key identification document. Though easy to obtain with a Social Security Number (SSN), those without one, especially immigrants, find it challenging. However, there’s good news: states like New Jersey are now issuing licenses without an SSN.

    Can You Secure a U.S. Driver’s License Without an SSN?

    Obtaining a driver’s license without an SSN varies by state. Typically, you must fulfill criteria, submit an application, undergo testing, and pay a fee. While a Social Security card is usually essential, states like Indiana accept alternatives such as a Form W-2.

    Impact on Undocumented Immigrants

    Without an SSN, undocumented immigrants find it difficult to secure a license. Yet, proving legal U.S. residency can change this.

    Where Can You Get a Driver’s License Without an SSN?

    Some states grant a driver’s license without an SSN. Additionally, several states have introduced legislation to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Here’s a breakdown:

    • States that offer licenses without SSNs
      • California
      • Colorado
      • Connecticut
      • Delaware
      • Hawaii
      • Illinois
      • Maryland
      • Nevada
      • New Jersey
      • New Mexico
      • New York
      • Oregon
      • Utah
      • Vermont
      • Virginia
      • Washington
    • States that may offer licenses without SSNs soon
      • Florida
      • New York
      • North Carolina
      • Texas
      • Massachusetts
      • Minnesota
      • Kansas

    If you reside in any of the U.S. states not mentioned above, then chances are you will not get your driver’s license without an SSN. But if you are eligible, you must first apply for one.

    How to Apply for a Driver’s License Without an SSN

    Application methods differ, so it’s crucial to check your local Department of Motor Vehicles. The primary requirement? Proof of legal U.S. status. Texas mandates affidavits, whereas Connecticut and Illinois might need a letter from the Social Security Administration.

    Requirements Vary by State

    In Texas, for example, to apply for a driver’s license without an SSN, you’ll need to provide an affidavit stating your SSN status. If you’re ineligible for an SSN, Texas won’t issue you a license.

    States like Connecticut and Illinois require a letter from the Social Security Administration confirming your SSN ineligibility.

    However, in California, applicants only need to show proof of their legal U.S. status, such as a U.S. passport or Green Card. For more information on California, in particular, see the section below.

    Given these variations, always consult your local Motor Vehicle Department for specifics.

    Additional Documents

    Some of the additional documents needed may include other government-issued identity documents, state residence, and U.S. citizenship documents, military ID or birth certificate, mortgage agreements, etc. So be prepared to submit a range of documents with your application.

    Driving Test

    Besides submitting the required documents, officials will ask you to take a driving test to gauge your eligibility to drive. Of course, this is nationwide and mandatory. You need to successfully clear driving tests and road skills, vision tests, and a written driving law exam. This test might be waived if you already had a driver’s license in the past and if you can provide proof of that fact.

    Advantages of Having a Driver’s License in the U.S.

    A driver’s license is more than a document validating your eligibility to drive on U.S. roads. They open up a world of opportunities, especially if you’re an immigrant with improper documentation, including:

    Official ID Benefits

    A driver’s license is a widely accepted ID, useful for tasks like opening a U.S. bank account, enrolling in educational institutions, and accessing government benefits. It also aids in quick identification during emergencies, such as accidents.

    Streamlined Loan Processes

    A U.S. driver’s license speeds up federal and private loan approvals, including payday loans.

    Domestic Travel

    Use your driver’s license for domestic flight bookings, eliminating the need for passports within the U.S.

    Affordable Car Insurance

    U.S. driver’s licenses are preferable for insurers, making it easier to secure insurance. Over time, this can also lead to more competitive rates.

    Social Security Numbers and California DMV Applications

    In California, if you’re gearing up to apply for a driver’s license or an identification card, understanding the implications and requirements of the Social Security Number (SSN) is crucial. Here’s what you need to know:

    The California Vehicle Code (CVC) stipulates that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) collects your SSN. This is not just a state requirement; federal laws like the 42 U.S.C. §405(c)(2)(C)(i) back this mandate, allowing states to use SSNs for identification purposes.

    SSN Verification at the DMV

    During your DMV visit, an electronic verification of your SSN, name, and birth date occurs in real-time with the Social Security Administration (SSA). This ensures that your data aligns with what the SSA has on file and fosters accuracy in the DMV’s database.

    A mismatch between the details you offer to the DMV and SSA’s records could halt your application. You won’t receive your driver’s license or ID, but instead, a letter asking you to correct the discrepancies by visiting a local SSA office.

    Key Application Requirements

    For noncommercial driver licenses (Class A, B, or C) or ID card applications, the DMV requires your SSN. Original commercial driver license (CDL) applications have a stricter mandate; visual verification of your SSN becomes necessary.

    Documentation for Verification

    If you’re going for a CDL, the only document accepted for SSN verification is an original social security card. However, for the new REAL ID applications, you can use a range of documents including:

    • Original social security card
    • A W-2 form
    • SSA-1099 or Non-SSA-1099 forms
    • A paystub showing the complete SSN

    Name Changes and SSN

    Undergone a name change? Before making a DMV appointment, update your records with the SSA. This preempts potential issues since the DMV corroborates data like your name, birth date, and SSN with the SSA.

    Who’s Eligible for an SSN?

    The essence of the SSN requirement is to validate your legal status in the U.S. U.S-born or naturalized citizens are SSN-eligible and must furnish this number to the DMV. Non-U.S. citizens with legal status and work authorization must do the same. Those legally in the U.S. without work authorization are exempt from the SSN mandate but must still validate their legal presence.

    SSN Confidentiality

    Your SSN is treated with utmost confidentiality by the DMV. It will never appear on your driver’s license or any public document. Nonetheless, authorized state agencies might access it, as allowed by the CVC.

    Obtaining an SSN Card

    For those unfamiliar, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issues SSN cards. Apply by visiting a local Social Security Office or navigating to the SSA website. Alongside the application, you’ll need to present documents verifying your citizenship or immigration status, age, and identity.

    Read More

    Final Thoughts

    More and more states and city authorities as easing the process of obtaining a driver’s license for immigrants. While there is possible controversy and backlash surrounding this, supporters feel it will benefit America as a whole in the long term. This includes a reduction in crimes, hit-and-run cases, and better living standards among immigrants. So you can expect more states to offer driver’s licenses without a Social Security Number in the near future.

    FAQs about SSNs and Driver’s Licenses

    1. Can I obtain a driver’s license in the US without an SSN?

    The requirement varies from state to state. In California, those legally present but ineligible for an SSN are exempt from the SSN requirement. They can start an application for a noncommercial driver license or ID card, and once their eligibility status is verified, the DMV will process the application.

    2. How can a non-US citizen obtain a driver’s license?

    Non-US citizens who are legally present in the US and have work authorization are eligible for an SSN and must provide it to the DMV to get a driver’s license.

    3. Can undocumented immigrants obtain a driver’s license in California?

    In California, certain undocumented immigrants can obtain a driver’s license under specific conditions. It’s essential to check with the DMV for current regulations and requirements.

    4. Can a non-US citizen obtain a state ID?

    Yes, a non-US citizen who is legally present in the US can apply for a state ID, but they must follow the respective state’s requirements, which may involve providing an SSN or proving legal presence.

    5. Can undocumented immigrants obtain a driver’s license in New York?

    States have their own regulations concerning this matter. In New York, as of my last update in 2022, undocumented immigrants can apply for a driver’s license under the Green Light Law. However, it’s always a good idea to check with the local DMV for the most up-to-date information.

    6. Can undocumented immigrants obtain a Social Security Number (SSN)?

    Typically, SSNs are given to individuals authorized to work in the US. Undocumented immigrants without work authorization generally cannot get an SSN. However, some exceptions might apply based on specific circumstances.

    7. Can a tourist obtain a US driver’s license?

    The ability for a tourist to obtain a US driver’s license depends on the state’s regulations. Some states might allow tourists to apply for a temporary or limited-term driver’s license if they meet certain requirements, while others might not.

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    Frank Gogol

    I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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