If you don't have a Social Security number because your immigration status doesn't permit you to apply for one, the prospect of getting a photo ID can seem daunting. In fact, you can get a photo identification card without a Social Security number more easily than you might imagine.

Prepare your documents. You'll need to have a form showing you're ineligible for a Social Security number. Accepted documents include an I-94, CBP I-94 or CBP I-94A without the stamp noting “Employment Authorized;" an official statement from a federal court or agency confirming ineligibility; or an official statement from the Social Security Administration confirming ineligibility. If you have a federal tax-identification number, you can use that to confirm your ineligibility. You'll also need paperwork to confirm your legal name, your residency or citizenship status and your current address.

Visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles office in person. You can't get a picture ID online or over the phone.

Fill out the form for an identification card. It's usually about one-page long and asks for basic information, including your name, address and contact information.

Pay the application fee. Your card should be available within a few minutes.

Tip

  • The motor-vehicle department says weekends, Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days to visit its offices. You'll finder shorter lines midweek.

    You can use the same method to get a driver's license without a Social Security number, as long as you have insurance and can pass the driving and vision tests.

Tip

  • Identification regulations are strictly enforced, so you need to have all the required paperwork before you go to the motor-vehicle department. Otherwise, you'll be asked to return when you have it.