Dear America: Acceptable Forms of Identification

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When you need to show two documents of identification and one needs to be a letter of employment, this may cause a problem for international students. This happened to one student in Mississippi trying to apply for a driver’s license. America called to find some answers!

Dear America,

In Mississippi it is the law that one proves their address with two documents in order to apply for driver’s license. One of them has to be a letter from one’s employer. But I thought we internationals can not work in this country?? Please help me understand!

international student voice magazine Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo



Dear Congo,

Every state may have slightly different requirements to obtain a driver’s license because that falls under the jurisdiction of state law versus federal law. I decided to call the state department of Mississippi on your behalf and we discovered several proofs of residency that can help you.

–          A lease or rental agreement

  • The state department said that if you are living in a dormitory on campus you will need to present the housing contract from the school printed on their school letterhead (official stationary of the school) and have it notarized (signed by an official witness of the government). Often there are notaries on campus, so I would talk to your advisor or equivalent office of International Student and Scholar Services in order to find the closest notary to you.
  • On the other hand, if you have a lease agreement for living off-campus this lease can be brought in without a notary, but it must identify you by name in the agreement.

–          A utility bill

  • You will pay this if you live off-campus in an apartment. For example, it could be the bill for water, electricity, or gas. However, a bill for other services like the internet or cable will not work, because the government isn’t involved in providing those resources.

–          A bank statement

  • I believe this will be a good second option in terms of proving residency. All you have to do is to deposit some money in a bank and register your name and address with that account. They can print out a statement for you, which verifies your account, and provides another proof of your identity.

–          A letter from your employer

  • While this may be difficult for many international students to obtain because of the restrictions on a student visa versus a work visa, you can work on campus or in a job related to your field of study. Both of these options would let you get employed on a student visa and then you can bring in a letter from your employer.

Unfortunately, after talking with the state official, she said that a letter from the school (excluding letters of employment or housing contracts) will not be enough to prove your identity, but remember your housing contract with them or an outside party will work.

Some other paperwork you will need to provide:

–          A translated birth certificate

  • I would bring a copy of the original and also a translation (talk to your university to get an approved translation)

–          Valid immigration paperwork

–          A passport

For others trying to solve this problem in other states, make sure to look at your state’s website. The easiest search will be to use a search engine and type the name of your state and “driver’s license”.

The name of the department which processes driver’s license can vary. For example in Ohio it is The Bureau of Motor Vehicles, in California it is The Department of Motor Vehicles, and in Mississippi it is The Department of Public Safety.Look for websites that end with “.gov” and you will be reading a resource listed by the state or federal government.

Don’t be afraid to call their office and ask questions about what you need if you can’t find what you’re looking for! These procedures are designed for national security, which makes them a little complex—even Americans struggle with the paper work, so remember you are not alone. Best of luck with your driver’s license application!




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international student voice dear america

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