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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

By the day you turn 16, your caseworker is required to get you your certified birth certificate (not a photo copy), your Social Security card, and a Texas Identification card. They should all be in the same name and that should be the name that you use. If they are in different names they won’t be accepted as identification. If you were ever adopted and then put back into foster care, there is a good chance that some of your identification documents might have the wrong name listed on them.

You should only carry your Texas identification card or driver’s license with you; the other documents should be kept in a safe place and taken out only when required for employment paperwork or other situations that require showing them for official purposes. If you lose these documents, it can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive to replace them. If you don’t get these documents or they are not in the correct name, you need to demand that you get them and let everyone know (your case manager, CASA, attorney ad litem, the judge, foster parent, and PAL worker) that you need them. You will not be able to function in the adult world without these documents and it is often much easier to get the necessary court order and take other important steps before you turn 18. If you don’t get help getting them, or the names on them are not correct, contact the Texas Foster Youth Justice Project.

Driver’s License vs. Texas Photo ID Card

Having an official ID with your picture is very important. Airports, banks, apartments, bus stations, stores, voting sites, schools and employers will ask for your official ID. Many people use their  driver’s license for this. However, while you are in foster care, it may be difficult to get a driver’s license. If you can’t get a driver’s license, then you should get an official Texas ID card.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (or DPS) issues driver’s licenses and photo IDs in Texas. Texas photo IDs are just as good as a driver’s license—except, of course, it does not give you the right to drive. You will need to follow some steps to get a driver’s license or photo ID. We discuss some of these steps below, but it’s best to visit the “Driver License” link at the DPS website or call your  local DPS office to ask what they need before you apply. A brochure that includes information on obtaining your Driver License can be found online.

Getting a Driver’s License While in Foster Care and Under 18

To get a Texas driver’s license while you are in foster care and under 18, you must meet the DPS requirements later in this section and get special permission from your caseworker’s supervisor. Even if you get permission to get a license, if you want to get your own car, you will need additional CPS approval. You will also need to buy car insurance. It is illegal to drive without insurance, you will get expensive tickets and fines, and DFPS does not provide car insurance to foster youth. Your Life Skills training class should teach you about car insurance and owning and maintaining a car. CPS can also decide that you should no longer have your license and can have DPS take it away.

Driver’s License – Under Age 18

To get a driver’s license if you are under 18, you must show DPS:

  • Proof of driver education (either through a course or “parent taught”),
  • Proof of being enrolled in and going to high school – VOE (Verification of Enrollment) Form, proof of high school graduation or GED certificate,
  • Your Social Security card,
  • Proof that you are a US citizen or have lawful presence in the US,
  • A completed Texas Residency Affidavit which your foster parent must sign,
  • At least two documents from your foster parent that shows verification that he or she resides in Texas,
  • Proof of your identity,
  • The Foster Youth Driver License Fee Waiver Letter (you should get this from your caseworker),
  • A car to take the driving test that has current registration and inspection stickers and insurance, and
  • The Driver License Application signed by your caseworker or other CPS staff.

You need to bring money for the application fee only if you are not in foster care. You will also need to pass a vision exam and a written driving test. If you are still in foster care, you will also need to do the things talked about in “Getting a Driver’s License While in Foster Care and Under 18” earlier in this section. You can find more information and links in the resources on the right.

If you are under 18 years old, then you will be in the Texas graduated driver license program. This means that your rights to drive will change as you get more experience behind the wheel. Basically:

  • You will have a learner’s permit for at least 6 months, meaning that you can only drive with a licensed driver over the age of 21 in the car.
  • After you have held a learner’s permit for at least 6 months, or you have turned 18, you will need to pass a driving test. Then you will have a Provisional License until you are 18. Provisional license means you can only have one person under the age of 21 in the car with you who is not a family member and you will not be able to drive between 12 a.m. –5 a.m. unless it is for work, school activities, or medical emergencies.
  • Your license will expire when you turn 18 and you will need to renew your license. You will no longer have restrictions.

Driver’s License – Age 18 and Older

If you don’t have a driver’s license when you turn 18, then you can go to the local DPS office to apply for one. Be sure to bring the proper identification including your Social Security card, proof of identity, proof of citizenship, proof of residing in Texas for at least 30 days, the Driver License Application, a car to take your driving test in that has current registration and inspections stickers and insurance, proof of completion of an adult driver education class, and money for the fees unless you are still in foster care and bring the Foster Youth Driver License Fee Waiver from your caseworker. You should call the local DPS office or visit the DPS website before going to apply to find out exactly what you need to bring. When you apply, you will also need to pass a rules test, a signs test, a vision exam and an actual driving test.  You can find more information and links with the resources found on the right side of the page.

Identification Card

If you are not able to get a driver’s license, you should get a Texas identification card. This is a photo ID card that has the same benefits of establishing your identity but does not allow you to drive. These cards are issued by the DPS. You will need to show the right documents and pay a fee to get one of these cards.  You can find more information and links with the resources found on the right side of the page.

Special Immigration Juvenile Status, Green Card and becoming a U.S. Citizen

If you are in foster care and are not a U.S. citizen, a legal resident or you do not know whether you are a citizen or legal immigrant, you should talk to your caseworker and attorney about your  immigration status. If you are told that you are a legal immigrant 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 which requires you to show you have legal immigration status. If you 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.

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 several months to several 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 much younger ages – 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 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 it to you on the basis that you are not in foster care anymore and do not need the protection.  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 or misrepresenting that you are a U.S. citizen 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. Also, when you get a green card, you should never tell anyone you are a U.S. citizen. That can keep you from ever becoming a citizen or lead to you getting deported. You also have the right to apply for U.S. citizenship five years later (usually, you must be at least 18 years old). 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.

Your green card will expire 10 years after it was issued. You will need to renew it or apply to become a citizen which 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 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 are a legal immigrant. 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 Texas Law Help. 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.

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 who was brought to the U.S. to be forced to work for little or no wages, or to be a prostitute or involved in the sex trade.
  • 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 – this program allows certain undocumented youth and young adults to live and work in the United States for two years. Because this is only a short term status, SIJS and the above options are much better ways to adjust your immigration status.

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.

Selective Service – Mandatory Registration For Men

Nearly all male U.S. citizens, and any male legal residents living in the U.S., 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, at any post office, by mail, at the Department of Motor Vehicles when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or 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 (888)655-1825. 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 (unless you have completed your sentence, probation and/or parole), and
  • Not declared mentally incompetent by a court.

Here’s how you register:

  1. You must be at least 17 years and 10 months old on the date you apply.
  2. 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 school. You can also register to vote when you apply for or renew your driver’s license. You can print an application form online.
  3. 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.
  4. When the state receives your application, it 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.
  5. Keep your voter registration card in a safe place; it can be a helpful document to show as identification.

NOTE: If you move, you will need to update your voter’s registration card.

For more information, contact:

  • Your local County Elections Administrator
  • Your local County Clerk (listed in the blue pages of your telephone book)
  • The Texas Secretary of State’s Office at (800)252-VOTE (8683)
  • Voter Registrar (Tax Assessor-Collector)

additional

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

*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