Free Legal Help for Current and Former Foster Youth: 1-877-313-3688

Legal Documents

contents
Get your Identification Documents by Age 16
Driver’s License vs. Texas Photo ID Card
Getting a Driver’s License While in Foster Care and Under 18
Driver’s License- Under Age 18
Driver’s License- Age 18 and Over
Identification Card
Special Immigration Juvenile State, Green Card and becoming a U.S. Citizen
Selective Service- Mandatory Registration for Men
Voting

Get Your Identification Documents by Age 16

Before you turn 16, CPS must get you your certified birth certificate, your Social Security card and, a Texas Identification card. These must be originals, not copies!

Not Born in the United States

If you were not born in the United States, you also need the legal document that shows your immigration status or your certificate of citizenship. See the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Green Care and Becoming a U.S. Citizen section for more information. 

Same Name

All of these important documents must be in the same name, which should be the name that you use, and all names should be spelled correctly. If the documents have different names on them, or are not in the name you use, or are not spelled correctly, they won’t be accepted at identification and you will have all sorts of problems. If you were ever adopted and went back into foster care, there is a good chance that some of your identification documents might have the wrong name listed on them. It is much easier to get a court order to fix your name problems while you are still under 18 and have a CPS court case open. 

Keep Them in a Safe Place

Only carry your Texas identification card or driver’s license with you’ the other documents should be kept in a safe place. Only take your birth certificate or Social Security card out when you need to show them for paperwork at a new job or places where you must show them for official purposes. Your foster care placement should keep them in a safe place for you, but you should have access to them whenever you need them. If you move and leave your placement, make sure you take the documents with you. If you lose the documents, it is difficult, time-consuming and expensive to replace them and it can cause a lot of problems.

Why You Need Them

Having a government issued ID with your photo on it is very important. Employers, health care providers, landlords, banks, schools, voting sites, stores, public benefits, bus stations, airports, and many more places will require your official ID. While many people use their driver’s license for this, many others don’t have a driver’s license and use an official Texas ID card. You will also need to show new employers your Social Security card, birth certificate and Texas ID or driver’s license. Throughout your adult life, you will need to have these documents available for many reasons.

Take Action to Get Your Identification Documents
If you don’t have all your original documents by your 16th birthday, or they are in the incorrect names, or you are not being allowed to use them, you should take the following steps:

1. Let everyone involved in your case know that you want and need them Now! Tell your caseworker, CASA, attorney, judge, foster parent, and PAL worker that you don’t have your identification documents, and that is a violation of foster youth rights under Texas law!
2. Contact the Texas Foster Care Ombudsman. (See Your Rights in Foster Care for more information about the Ombudsman.)
3. Get your birth certificate on your own.

4. Get your Texas ID on your own.

5. If you still have problems, contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project at (877) 313- 3688.

Social Security Card
If you are under 18, you cannot get your Social Security card on your own. So speak up that you need help getting your Social Security card. To find out about applying for or getting a replacement Social Security card, see www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm. If you have problems, contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project at (877) 313- 3688.

Get Your Birth Certificate on Your Own
A new Texas law lets you get your birth certificate by yourself if you were born in Texas and are in foster care or extended foster care even if you are under 18. You can get it from the county clerk, local birth certificate agency or the Texas Vital Statistics office at no cost. You do not need consent from a parent or CPS to get it. The agency will need to see a document that shows you are in foster care, such as the CPS Foster Care Verification Form (Form K-908-4200), or Foster Care Residency Verification for a Driver License or State Identification Card Fee Waiver form (Form K-908-2042), which you get from your caseworker. Or you can show a form your placement has. Because this law is new, check TexasFosterYouth.org for updates about getting identification documents.

Get Your ID on Your Own
A new Texas law lets you get your Texas ID on your own for free if you are currently in foster care or extended foster care, even if you are under 18. Follow these steps to get your Texas ID:

1. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the agency that issues Texas ID cards and they require proof that you are a resident of Texas. Get your caseworker to complete the Foster Care Residency Verification for a Driver License or State Identification Card Fee Waiver form (Form K-908-2042) and the Application for Texas Driver License or Identification Card form found at DPS.Texas.gov.

• Your caseworker should complete the Application form, but if you only receive Residency Verification form from the caseworker, you can get the Application at the DPS office and fill it out yourself. As a foster youth, the law does not require that you have your caseworker’s signature on it.

• The Residency Verification form meets the requirements needed to prove your Texas Residency. It also shows that you are in foster care and that you don’t have to pay the fee for an ID card and that you do not need to have a parent or CPS consent for you to get the ID.

• If you are having trouble getting your caseworker to complete the verification form, contact the Texas Foster Care Ombudsman. They can tell your caseworker’s supervisor and the supervisor’s boss that you are not getting the help you need to get your ID. This is the type of problem that should be easy for them to fix.

2. Review the requirements about how to get your Texas ID at DPS.Texas.gov. Be sure to look at the online brochure and checklist. You should have a supportive adult help you with this and go with you to DPS.

3. Get the other documents you will need including:

• Your birth certificate.
• Your Social Security card.
• If you were not born in the United States, the legal document that shows your immigration status or
your certificate of citizenship
• Originals of school records and immunization records. DPS requires you show at least one of these records, but take at least two in case they don’t accept one of them. Get your school records from the registrar’s office at your school.
• If you don’t have the completed Foster Care Residency Verification for a Driver License or State Identification Card Fee Waiver form (Form-908-2042), your placement will need to be with you to show proof you are placed there and they must provide documentation of the address as your
residence. If you are out of foster care, you will need to show documents with your address or bring
someone you live with that has the documents and can sign the residence verification forms.

4. Go to your local DPS office. DPS offices can often have long waits, so see if your office lets you get in line online before you arrive at the office. See DPS.Texas.gov for more information.

Address to Use on your ID or License?

If you are in foster care or extended foster care, you should use the address of the regional CPS office where your caseworker is. Under Texas law, you are required to have a current address on your ID or license; you can get a ticket and expensive fines if you don’t. But there is also a law that allows foster youth to use the address of the regional CPS office where their caseworker is and not change their address when they move placements. If you are in foster care, you only want to use your current placement address if you are with a relative or have been in the placement for over a year and you plan to stay there for more than a year. When you leave foster care, you must update your driver’s license or Texas ID with your current address. You can do this online at DPS.Texas.Gov if you have a debit or credit card to pay the fee and a printer to print the temporary card. Or you must go to the DPS office to update your address.

Check TexasFosterYouth.org for updated information about how foster youth can get their birth certificates and Texas Identification cards on their own.

Driver’s  License

To drive a car, you must have a driver’s license. The car you are driving must have insurance. It is illegal to drive without a driver’s license or car insurance and you can get expensive tickets and possibly even get arrested.

What do You Need to Get a Driver’s License?

You need all the same documents to get a driver’s license that you need for a Texas Identification card. See Get Your ID on Your Own. If you are in foster care or extended foster care, your caseworker should complete the Foster Care Residency Verification for a Driver License or State Identification Card Fee Waiver form (Form K-908-2042) and the Application for Texas Driver License or Identification Card form found at DPS. Texas.gov. The Residency Verification form meets the requirements to prove your Texas Residency.

When you apply, you will need to pass a rules test, a signs test, a vision exam and an actual driving test. You will need a car to take the driving test that has current registration and inspection stickers and insurance, and a certificate showing you have completed the Impact Texas Driver Program (ITD) video program within 90 days of the date you take your driving skills test. You can watch the video at impacttexasdrivers.dps.texas. gov. The video program may only work on a desktop or laptop computer and not on a phone or tablet. There are different videos based on how old you are and whether you took a teen driver education class or the adult driver education course, so be sure to review the information carefully. You should review all the details about getting a driver’s license at DPS.Texas.gov.

You can either take your driving test at DPS or at an authorized driving school. If you pass the test at a school, you will still need to go to DPS to get your license. Some schools may even have a car you can use for the test for a fee. For more information about the Third Party Skills Testing Program see DPS.Texas.gov.

Getting a Driver’s License If You are Between the Ages of 18-25

If you are between the ages of 18-25 and did not complete a Teen Driver Education course, you must complete a 6-hour Texas Adult Driver Education course. Many places offer this course, often online. Once you complete the driver education course, you can go to DPS to obtain a Learner’s Permit so you can legally practice driving. With a learner’s permit, you can only drive if you are in an insured car, with a licensed driver who is 21 or older in the car with you, and you can only have one other person who is not a family member in the car with you.

Getting a License if You Are Under 18

When you are under 18, you can only get a license if your parent or person with legal authority consents (says you can). If you are in foster care, your caseworker is the person who consents. Your caseworker will consider whether you are ready for the responsibility of driving and whether you have insurance. CPS does not pay for insurance so you will need to either pay for insurance or your foster parent will need to agree to cover you under their policy. Insurance for teen drivers can cost over $2000 a year! If your caseworker agrees you can get a license, they will need to complete Foster Care Residency Verification for a Driver License or State Identification Card Fee Waiver form (Form K-908-2042) and complete the Application for Texas Driver License or Identification Card form found at DPS.Texas.gov. The caseworker must sign the Application form before a notary public. The Residency Verification form meets the requirements to prove your Texas Residency.

You also need to take a driver education course and provide proof that you successfully completed it. Teens also must have proof of being enrolled in and going to school, which is called a Verification of Enrollment (VOE) form they get from their school. Or they must show that they have graduated from high school or have a GED certificate.

A learner’s permit is the first type of license you get when you are under the age of 18. With a learner’s permit, you can only drive if you are in an insured car, with a licensed driver who is 21 or older in the car with you, and you can only have one other person who is not a family member in the car with you. You don’t have to pass the driving test to get the learner’s permit. Learner’s permits expire when you turn 18 and you need to apply for driver’s license. While you have your learner’s permit you should complete the driving practice part of your driver’s education course.

After you have had the learner’s permit for at least 6 months, you can apply for your driver’s license. If you pass the test, you will get a provisional driver’s license, which will expire when you turn 18. A provisional driver’s license lets you only have one person under the age of 21 in the car with you who is not a family member and you cannot drive between 12 a.m.–5 a.m. unless it is for work, school activities, or medical emergencies. Your provisional driver’s license will expire when you turn 18 so you should renew it, which you can do 30 days before your birthday. Once you renew it and you are 18, you have no more driving restrictions!

You can find more information about getting a license when you are under 18 at DPS.Texas.gov.

No More Surcharges

For many years, Texas had surcharges (which are extra fees) for many types of driving tickets. If a driver got a ticket, they not only had to pay the fine for the ticket, but would be charged extra fees for several years based on the type of ticket they had. If a driver did not pay them, their license could be suspended or they could not get a license. Starting September 1, 2019, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program and surcharges ended. Any unpaid surcharges were waived. If a license was suspended because of unpaid surcharges, the license, unless it had expired, should be reinstated. But the driver needs to verify this. If a driver’s license expired, the driver needs to take steps to get it back. For more about the repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program and Surcharges, go to DPS.Texas.gov.

Immigration and Citizenship Documents

If you were born outside the United States or you don’t have an original birth certificate (not a photocopy) that shows you were born in the United States, you should talk to your caseworker and attorney about your immigration status. If you are told that you are a lawful permanent resident or citizen, demand to be shown the actual document that shows your status. You should also be able to use the document for employment and other places such as the college financial aid office where you need to show you have legal immigration status. If your caseworker does not have it, they need to get help from the CPS regional immigration specialists. If you are told there is an immigration case underway, you should ask to see a copy of the application and see the date that it was submitted to the government. If you are not getting clear answers or if you have any other questions, you should contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project. If you have already aged out of foster care and are still undocumented, you should contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project IMMEDIATELY at (877)313-3688.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a way for undocumented foster youth to become lawful permanent residents of the United States, which is sometimes called getting a “green card,” but the card is no longer green. To be eligible for SIJS status, you must be under 21 years old and not married. While you are still under the court’s oversight, the CPS court must issue an order that it is not in your best interest to go back to your home country and that you can’t be reunited with a parent because of some serious reason, like abuse, neglect or abandonment. It can take a couple of years to finish this process and get a green card. This is not something that should wait until you are almost 18, and it can be started at a much younger age—as soon as the court finds you cannot be returned to your parent. If you are not a U.S. citizen and don’t have a green card, you could be deported from the U.S., and won’t be able to legally work or receive most other government benefits including many for aging out foster youth.

Obtaining SIJS status and then your green card is a two part process. The application process includes filling out several forms, having your fingerprints and photographs taken and getting a special medical examination. You may also be interviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While you may have to help provide information for the forms, someone with experience on immigration matters should be completing the paperwork. You should get your caseworker and the attorney overseeing the process to explain what each step is and list who is responsible for completing each task. If your caseworker is not able to fully explain what is going on, insist that an attorney talk to you about what is happening. Unfortunately, in the past some SIJS applications were not completed by CPS for foster youth on time. Let the Court, your CASA and attorney know about concerns about delays and contact that Texas Foster Youth Justice Project if there continues to be delays or if you have concerns.

When you turn 18, if you do not have your green card yet, don’t leave foster care. The court might not be able to issue the order and CPS will probably stop assisting you in applying for SIJS and the green card. USCIS might deny your application on the basis that you are not in foster care anymore and do not need the protection. You won’t qualify for most aged out foster youth benefits, except free college tuition and you will not be able to legally work, so you will have no way to pay for your living expenses. And don’t get married as you can’t get SIJS if you are married.

Remember that applying for SIJS status is similar to turning yourself into USCIS. If your SIJS case is denied, immigration has the right to put you into deportation proceedings, which means they can start the process to return you to your home country even if you don’t want to go. It is very important that you discuss everything about your case with your caseworker and attorney and to be completely honest with them when you answer their questions. A criminal record, particularly offenses from when you are 17 or older may keep you from getting a green card. You must disclose all adult and juvenile offenses on the forms. A history of illegal drug usage can also prevent you from getting a green card. Your caseworker and attorney will need to look over your case carefully before filing for SIJS status.

Once you have your green card, you have the right to live and work permanently in the U.S. However, you can still lose your immigration status and be deported if you commit certain crimes, including drug related offenses. A green card does not make you a citizen and NEVER tell anyone you are a citizen. Once you have a green card for 5 years, if you are at least 18 years old, you can apply to become a citizen. There is a high fee to pay to apply for citizenship but this fee can be waived while you are in foster care or in certain other situations.

Once you have legal immigrant status or become a U.S. citizen after getting SIJS status, you will not be able to help your parents immigrate to the U.S. The law bans those that get SIJS from immigrating their parents. If you want to help a parent immigrate, talk to the immigration attorney about whether there are any other immigration options for you.

Other Possible Ways to Adjust Your Immigration Status:

  • Victim of Violent Crime (U-Visa).
  • Abused by parent or spouse who is a U.S. citizen or permanent residence (VAWA Self-Petition).
  • Trafficking Victim—somebody forced or tricked to do work without pay or have sex for something of value.
  • Spouse or parent has a green card and applies for you. 
  • Brother or sister is a U.S. Citizen and applies for you. 
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—The U.S. government tried to end DACA but many court cases are underway. As of September 2019 if your DACA approval period is expiring, you can apply to renew it. But nobody can file a new application to request DA For more information, see nilc.org/issues/daca/.

Many of these programs have very stringent guidelines. The ones involving your relatives assisting you will probably require you to return to your home country for an extended period of time and your previous illegal entry into the U.S. could disqualify you.

Immigration law is complicated. You must discuss your personal situation with an experienced immigration attorney to determine what options you have.

Your green card will expire 10 years after it was issued. You will need to renew it or apply to become a citizen; both of these take many months and cost hundreds of dollars. This means you need to start several months before your green card expires. You can find more information about what is needed at www.uscis.gov. If you do not get your green card renewed by the time it expires and you have not become a U.S. citizen, you will not have documentation that you can legally work in the U.S. and will not be able to get financial aid, renew a driver’s license or do many other things that require you to show that you have legal immigration status. Don’t lose your green card; it costs hundreds of dollars to get a new copy, the forms to request a replacement are really complicated and it takes many months for your new card to arrive. There are low cost non-profit agencies that can assist you with the application to become a citizen or renew your green card. You can find one in your area at texaslawhelp.org/legal-help/legal-help-finder. If you have a criminal record or have trouble understanding the forms, you should seek the help of these agencies or an immigration attorney.

To learn more about green cards, SIJS status and immigrant rights, visit www.ilrc.org or www.uscis.gov.

Not born in the United States? Unless you have a certificate of citizenship in your hand, NEVER say you are a citizen. Don’t tell the police you are a citizen, don’t state it on a public benefits application, voter registration application or any document you fill out or give to anyone. If you misrepresent that you are a citizen, even if you mistakenly think you are, you can go to prison, be deported back to your birth country or be prevented from becoming a citizen.

Adulting

Selective Service—Mandatory Registration For Men

All males living in the United States, including citizens, and documented or undocumented immigrants, who are 18 through 25 years old, must register with Selective Service. You are first able to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of your 18th birthday. Females are not required to register.

Simply registering with the Selective Service is not the same as volunteering to join the military. The Selective Service registry is used only if the U.S. has a military draft. (The U.S. has not had a draft since 1973). In a draft, men are chosen for mandatory military service by random numbers and their year of birth. If there were a draft and if you were chosen, then, before actually joining the military, you would be examined for fitness for service. Also, if there is a draft, men who object to war and killing on moral or religious grounds can apply as a “conscientious objector.” If approved, he can serve in a different role.

You can register for Selective Service online (www.sss.gov), at any post office, by mail, at the Department of Public Safety when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or Texas ID card and at most high schools. The form has no space for claiming any exemptions, such as conscientious objection. You can write on the bottom of the registration card: “I am a conscientious objector.” You will receive a confirmation from the Selective Service within 30 to 90 days after registering. If you do not receive confirmation, you should contact the Selective Service System at (847)6886888. You can check www.sss.gov to see if you are registered. You should keep your registration card in a safe place with your other identification documents; not only is it proof that you registered, it can be used to help establish your identity. Any time you move before you turn 26, you are also required to update your address with the Selective Service.

There are serious consequences if you don’t register for Selective Service. If you do not register, you can be fined up to $250,000 and imprisoned for up to five years, although no one has been charged since 1986. Plus, if you don’t register, then you will not be eligible for financial aid for school, federal job  training and government jobs. Male immigrants are not eligible for citizenship if they do not register. If you do not register before you turn 26, then you may never be able to get some of those benefits, even if you do not find out the registration was needed for the program many years after you are 26 years old and it is too late to register.

Voting

When you turn 18, you can vote! To be eligible to vote in Texas, you must first register. You can register to vote in Texas if you are:

  • A United States citizen,
  • At least 18 years old on election day,
  • Not a convicted felon (you may be eligible to vote if you have completed your sentence, probation and parole), and
  • Not declared mentally incompetent by a court.

Here’s how you register:

  • You must be at least 17 years and 10 months old on the date you apply.
  • Get an application from the Voter Registrar’s Office in your county, the Secretary of State’s Office, a library, a post office or your high sc You can also register to vote when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or Texas identification card. You can print an application form online at the Texas Secretary of State site: www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqvr.shtml.
  • Fill out the application and drop it in the mail—most application forms will have free postage. Your application must be postmarked or received by the Voter Registrar’s office at least 30 days before the election.
  • When the County Voter Registrar receives your application, they will mail a voter registration card. Sign this card and keep it with you when you go to the polls on election day and bring your Texas identification card or driver’s license when you go to vote.
  • Keep your voter registration card in a safe place; it can be a helpful document to show as identification.

NOTEIf you move, you will need to update your voter’s registration card.

For more information, contact:

  • The Texas Secretary of State’s Office – www.votetexas.gov (800)252-VOTE (8683 
  • Your County’s Voter Registrar – (Tax Assessor-Collector)

additional

Homeless and Unaccompanied Youth Getting Their Texas Birth Certificate, ID Card and License

Getting Your Texas State ID Card

Getting Your Driver’s License

Getting Your Social Security Card

Getting Your Birth Certificate

Getting your CPS records

Other Identification Documents Resources

Add New

*Indicates a resource developed by the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. or Texas C-Bar. Please download, copy, and distribute. Complete Resource List