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International Student & Scholar Services

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.

Applying for a Texas ID card:

For the I.D. Card, you will need to complete an application form; show your passport, visa stamp, I-94 card, and immigration status documents; and pay an application fee. You must have been a resident of Texas for at least 30 days in order to apply for a Texas ID Card or Driver License. You will have to prove your Texas residency by showing 2 original documents from the DPS’s list of approved materials. The ISSS Office will take students to apply for their Texas ID at the beginning of each semester.

Applying for a Texas Driver License (TDL) - Valid for only one year
  1. Proof of having passed the writing portion of the driving test. You can study the writing portion of this test by downloading the TEXAS DRIVERS HANDBOOK.
  2. Proof of Identity:
  3. Proof of valid immigration status.
  4. Proof of SSN or sign an affidavit affirming you are not currently eligible for an SSN
  5. Proof of Texas vehicle registration and liability insurance if you have a car.
  6. Complete required forms available at any Texas Driver License office.
  7. Pass a vision exam – take your glasses or contact lenses if you need them to drive.
  8. Pass a driving exam: Note, you will need to provide the car for the driving test. If you do not own a car, you may consider using the Zipcar service available on-campus.
  9. For individuals between the ages of 18 to 24, you will also require proof of having taken an approved driver's education course. For approved courses, click here.
  • 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. Further information about this requirement is available on .

Find out more about the Zipcar and sign up at

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:

  1. Completed Social Security number application (The Social Security number application and detailed information is available on the Social Security website.)
  2. Letter of employment
  3. Letter from the SMU International office (ONLY for on-campus employment)
  4. Your passport
  5. Your visa
  6. Your I-94 card
  7. Your Form I-20 or Form DS2019

* 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 access.smu.

How to reach the Dalls Social Security Ofice
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