U.S. Living

Driving in the DFW Area:

The driver license or state I.D. card issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), serves as most people's primary identification document. Students and Scholars are encouraged to apply for a Texas I.D. or a Driver’s License once they have arrived in Dallas. Foreign nationals may drive on their foreign driver license for a period of up to one year, provided they have an International Driver's Permit (IDP).

The IDP is a document secured in one's home country of origin and serves only as a valid translation of a home country driver's license. It may not be used by itself, as the official home country driver's license must accompany it to be considered a valid driving document. Please check with your home country government office on how to obtain an IDP in your home country.

Please note that an IDP is not an International Driver's License - the internet has a lot of false information regarding an invalid document called an "International Driver's License". Please do not purchase one of these false documents, as it is not an acceptable legal document to drive in the US.

For more information please visit the Department of Public Safety website for the State of Texas.


Applying for a Texas State ID or Driver's License

You must have been a resident of Texas for at least 30 days to apply for a Texas ID Card or Driver's License.) The ISSS Office will take students to apply for their Texas ID at the beginning of each semester.

Below is a list of items you will need to apply for a Texas State ID or Driver's License:

  1. Completed DL14A Application (https://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/DL-14A.pdf)  
  2. Passport  
  3. Visa 
  4. I-94 (most recent)
  5. I-20 
  6. If you have a Social Security Number, bring the card to DPS.If you do not have an SSN card, you will complete an affidavit. The affidavit will be given to you at the DPS office. Please wait to sign it until you are in front of the DPS officer. Please note: You cannot be actively in the process of applying and waiting for an SSN and applying for an ID or license.
  7. Bring Fee to pay for Driver's license (https://www.dps.texas.gov/driverlicense/fees.htm
  8. Proof of Residency: You must have TWO different items from the list below to certify residency. They must be from a different source (for example, water and gas bills from the same utility company are not accepted). 
    • The entire Residential Lease that has your name/address/signature on it and the signature of your landlord on the final page of the lease.  
    • Renter's insurance policy or statement under your name and address 
    • Electric, water, natural gas, satellite TV, internet, cable, or cellular telephone statement within 90 days of the application date with your name and address. 
    • Preprinted paycheck or paystub within 90 days of application with your address 
    • W-2 or 1099 tax form for the current year 
    • Mail or bank statement from a financial institution, including checking, savings, and credit card statements dated within 90 days of the application date with your senate address listed.  


If you are applying for a Texas Driver's License, you will also need the following:

  • Evidence of completion of: (certificates/diplomas provided after you complete them)
    • Impact Texas Driver (ITD) if you will be taking a driving test for the issuance of your Driver's license.  
    • A six-hour adult Driver Education course for ages 18 through 24
      • If you are above 24 years of age and do not take this course, you will be asked to take a 30-question test at your DPS appointment. We recommend that you study signage and driving laws before your appointment. You can study the writing portion of this test by downloading the TEXAS DRIVERS HANDBOOK.


  • Contact the local office of the DPS if you do not receive the license within 60 days.
  • Any time you move, notify the DPS of your change of address within 10 days.
  • Obey all laws when driving. Do not take unnecessary risks. Be a polite and considerate driver.
  • Alcohol and drugs, even prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and mixing medications, can affect your driving skills. Penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) are strictly enforced.
  • Always carry your driver's license when driving.
  • For more information, please visit the DPS website.


So You Want to Buy a Car...

Some international students and scholars will consider buying a car while they are here in the DFW area. Please be aware that you will need to have established credit if you wish to purchase a new car. If you are considering buying a used car, we recommend you get an overview on used car prices through Kelley’s Blue Book.

Here are some useful tips when considering buying a used car:

  • Get all the information on automobile insurance policies, including liability and comprehensive and collision costs for the vehicle model, make, and year.
  • Get the vehicle identification number. Ask to see the Title ("Certificate of Title") of the car. All the information needed to inquire about insurance for this particular car will appear on the Title. (This will also prove that the person selling you the car is the owner). Important: Make sure that no liens are recorded on the Title. (If money is owed on the car, another name will appear in the space for "lienholder." In addition, the "clear" Title (no debts are held against the car) is blue, and the temporary Title (proof of sole ownership has not yet been issued) is red.
  • Arrange with the insurance company you have chosen to begin the coverage, especially the liability insurance required by law, before you meet with the seller to finalize the transaction.
  • After buying the car, make sure you visit the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure you have obtained the title. You will pay a fee and the sales tax on the vehicle (approximately 6.25% of the sales price of the car) to transfer the Title to you, the new owner. The seller need not go to the Tax Office with you. You should receive your Title by mail within 4 to 6 weeks. For more information on how to register your car, click here.


Zipcar Rental

Perhaps you don’t want to buy a car or use a bicycle but need a car occasionally for moving, shopping or going on a road trip.

Become a member of the Zipcar program on campus! Any international student or scholar who is 18 years of age or older with an international or U.S. driver license may sign up for this program for a $25 membership fee.

Once you sign up, you can rent the car by the hour or by the day and not have to worry about gas or insurance since it is included in the rental price. You can reserve the car online and let yourself in with your Zipcard. If you need to use the car to take a driving test at DPS, you just have to notify Zipcar a week ahead of time so they can produce the insurance letter for the car (which you will need to provide when you get to DPS).

If you do not have a U.S. driver license, you will need to submit a driving record from your home country.

Find out more about the Zipcar and sign up at http://www.zipcar.com/smu/.

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a U.S. government issued identification number that is required for all individuals who are employed in the United States. International students and scholars must have a job offer in order to apply for a Social Security number. Please be advised that any type of employment must be approved by the International Office before a foreign passport holder on a student visa may begin working.

You must bring the following documents with you when you visit the Social Security Office to apply for a Social Security number:

If you are employed on-campus:

  1. Completed Social Security number application (The Social Security number application and detailed information is available on the Social Security website.)
  2. Letter from the SMU International office. (for students with on-campus employment) you must request using this letter request form.
  3. Your passport
  4. Your visa
  5. Your I-94 card
  6. Your Form I-20 or Form DS2019 (please note: the SSA requires a WET, ink signature from a DSO on page 1 of your I-20. If your signature is electronic, please bring it to the ISSS office to receive a wet signature.)

If you are employed through CPT:

  1. Completed Social Security number application (The Social Security number application and detailed information is available on the Social Security website.)
  2. Employers Offer Letter
  3. Your passport
  4. Your visa
  5. Your I-94 card
  6. Your Form I-20 with CPT Authorization on page 2  (please note: the SSA requires a WET, ink signature from a DSO on page 1 of your I-20. If your signature is electronic, please bring it to the ISSS office to receive a wet signature.)

* When you have received a SSN, you will need to bring your original SSN card to the Enrollment Services help desk located on the first floor of Blanton. Please make sure to ask for Jean Porter. She will enter the number for you in my.smu.

How to reach the Dallas Social Security Office
10824 N. Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75231
Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (except federal holidays)
Telephone: 1-800-772-1213

Directions to the Dallas Social Security Office:
Drive north on Central Expressway (I-75)
Exit Walnut Hill
Stay on the access road through Walnut Hill and Meadow
The office is on the right-hand side, just north of the Service King Collision Center


SSN/ITIN Information Presentation

Do I need to file taxes?

Yes! Every international student and their dependents (including spouses and children of all ages) are required to file their tax return if they were in the US during the previous calendar year. If you were not in the US in 2023 at all, then you can anticipate filing next year. While filing your tax return may sound difficult, there are a number of benefits to doing so other than it’s the law:

  • You might get a refund - Some international students will qualify for a refund due to tax treaties and a lack of serious income if they’ve earned income in the US.
  • Protect taxation of your worldwide income.
  • You fulfill your visa obligations - All international students must file at least Form 8843 in order to remain legal under F, J, M & Q visas, even if you didn’t earn any money in the US

What forms do I need to submit?

  • Every international student, along with their dependents, will need to file Form 8843 separately.
  • If you have received income in the last calendar year then you will need to file Form 8843 and most likely Form 1040NR-EZ also.

How do I submit these forms?

There are a number of ways that you can submit these forms:

  1. Do it yourself - the forms are all available online from the IRS and you can print them off, complete them for each family member and submit them to the IRS directly for processing.
  2. Purchase a tax code online facilitated by the International Student and Scholar Services Office
  3. Expert Tax Advice - You can connect with outside expert tax advice and assistance typically for a fee. You can contact them directly for any expert assistance or advice. The ISSS office cannot endorse a particular tax service provider. 

Does the ISSS Office have resources to help me tax filing? 

Yes! Our office will be sending emails with information about how to purchase a tax code to access Sprintax beginning in February 2024. Codes will go up for sale sometime in March 2024.

Want to get a head start?

Set up your Sprintax account here.

(Note: you cannot finish tax filing with the student discount until you purchase the Sprintax code from the ISSS office)

How do I get my tax code after purchasing it online?

Once you have purchased your code from ISSS, your unique tax code will be sent to you electronically (via email) within 1-2 business days. There is no option for in office pickup.

I've received my Sprintax code, now what?

Great! Follow the instructions below to get started or view this instruction guide

1. Gather all the required documents and get ready to begin tax filing.

2. When you are ready to begin, click here to visit the Sprintax website and create an account. Follow the instructions as prompted on the screen including the online questionnaire.

3. You will then be prompted to input your personal code in the box on the "Review your Order" page. Then Sprintax will prepare your tax return.

4. Finally, once you complete the tax preparation process in the Sprintax software, you must print, sign and mail your documents to the IRS.

If you prefer to complete this in a group setting, click here to view when ISSS will be hosting our tax preparation days. 

I'm having difficulties with filing my taxes. Who should I contact? 

SMU provides this service as a courtesy to our international students. The International Student and Scholar Services Office and SMU DOES NOT provide tax advice and therefore disclaim any liabilities from the use of Sprintax Tax Prep. In the event of any errors or damages caused by Sprintax, you must contact Sprintax directly. By purchasing the code, you understand and agree that SMU and the ISSS Office are not liable to you for any damages or loss caused during the process of using Sprintax and filing your tax return. SMU advises its students to read carefully the terms of use provided by Sprintax. 

Free Tax Webinars hosted by Sprintax: 

Sprintax will be hosting tax information webinars to provide an overview of some of the main areas you may need to know about nonresident tax. Topics include, who must file tax forms as a nonresident, residency for tax purposes, when is the filing deadline, FICA taxes, tax forms you may receive or need to complete, as well as an overview of how Sprintax can help to prepare your tax returns via its online software.

Sprintax Nonresident Tax Webinars:

Sprintax Nonresident Tax Webinar (AAP) In these tax webinars, international students, scholars and professionals will be run through everything they need to know about nonresident tax for the 2023 tax season. Topics will include who must file, tax residency, FICA, State returns, implications of misfiling as well as how to use Sprintax to prepare a compliant tax return.

Information provided in these free webinars are not presented by SMU staff.

What is the Difference Between Sprintax and TurboTax?

Watch this webinar from the Sprintax VP Enda Kelleher, and TurboTax’s Senior Partner Manager, John Meaney, which highlights some of the key differences between Sprintax and TurboTax. Specifically, TurboTax only assists with resident taxes, while Sprintax only assists with nonresident taxes. Their teams often see many nonresidents misfiling as residents, and then requiring an amended return as a result.

Watch this webinar by clicking here.

Information provided in these free webinars are not presented by SMU staff.

Additional Resources: 

Sprintax Blog

Sprintax YouTube 

Sprintax Student Brochure 

Sprintax Instruction Guide


An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9", formatted like an SSN (NNN-NN-NNNN).

Do I need to apply for an ITIN?

To determine if you need an ITIN and subsequent steps click here. 

To access ITIN Letter Request Form click here.

More resources:  https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/taxpayer-identification-numbers-tin


SSN/ITIN Information Presentation


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