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How to Get a Photo I.D., Birth Certificate, or Social Security Card

Authored By: D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
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FAQ

I don't have a car, so I don't need a driver's license.  Why do I need photo identification?

When you start a new job, your employer is required to ask you for proof of identification. Having a photo identification card (ID) can also make it easier for you to get certain kinds of services, such as public benefits. You often need an ID simply to get into the buildings where hearings in shelter and public benefits cases are held.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get a photo ID in the District?

No. You must live in the District to get a District-issued ID, but you do not have to be a U.S. citizen. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must present your current immigration documents when applying for an I.D. Keep reading for a list of immigration documents that you can use to verify your identity and date of birth.

Can I get a photo ID in the District if I am homeless?

Yes, though you must be able to prove that you live in the District. Keep reading for ways to do this.

Where do I apply for a photo ID?

  1. Do you receive Food Stamps benefits? If so, you can receive a free photo ID from the Department of Human Services. Just ask your caseworker or call 202-724-5506. Click here for an application for Food Stamps.
  2. The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue a non-driver photo identification card to District residents who are at least 15 years old. To qualify, you must verify
    • your identity and date of birth,
    • your Social Security number, and
    • current residency in the District of Columbia.

Click here for an application for a D.C. driver's license or non-driver ID card. You can also use this form to register to vote.

When you have completed the form and have your documents ready to verify your identity and date of birth, Social Security number, and current residency in the District of Columbia, you must apply in person at one of the following DMV Service Centers:

  • 95 M Street, SW, Tues - Sat., 8:15 a.m. - 4 p.m
  • 3220 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Tues - Sat, 8:15 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • 3222 M Street, NW, Lower Level, Tues - Sat, 8:15 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • 1205 Brentwood Road, NE, Tues - Sat, 8:15 a.m. - 4 p.m.

How do I verify my identity and date of birth?

1. You can submit ONE of the following "Primary" documents (you must bring the original):

  • State or District issued United States birth certificate (see below if your birth certificate has been lost);
  • D.C. driver's license, learner's permit or identification card, not expired more than 180 days;
  • Letter with picture from Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) or DC Department of Corrections certifying name and date of birth;
  • Unexpired United States passport;
  • Certification of Naturalization;
  • Certification of U.S. Citizenship
  • For non-U.S. citizens, one of the following documents issued by the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS):
    • Unexpired Foreign Passport with un-expired visa issued for six or more months and I-94 stamp (Arrival and Departure Record).
    • Unexpired Refugee Travel Document (I-571).
    • Form I-94 (Arrival and Departure Record) stamped Asylee, Refugee, or INS Asylum Approval Letter.
    • Unexpired Employment Authorization Card (I-688A, I-688B, I-766).
    • Unexpired Resident Alien Card (I-551) (also known as a Green Card).
    • Unexpired US Citizen Identification Card (I-197, I-179).
    • Unexpired Diplomat Certificate with Diplomat Identification Card issued by the United States Department of State.
    • Unexpired passport with visa and I-94 or stamped duration of stay with status.
    • Unexpired passport with visa, I-94 and I-20 (students).
    • Unexpired passport with visa, I-94 and I-66 (students).
    • Unexpired passport with visa, I-94 and US State Department Letter (reflecting no diplomatic immunity).
    • Unexpired passport with visa, I-94 and INS Authorization Letter (reflecting status pending/processing).
    • Employment Authorization Card.
    • Permanent Resident Card.
    • Permanent Resident Alien Card.
    • Refugee/Asylee (if you are a refugee, you are required by law to apply for permanent resident status one year after being granted/entering the U.S. in refugee status).

2. OR, if you do not have the "Primary" documents listed above, you can submit TWO of the following "Secondary" documents (you must bring the originals):

  • DC driver's license, learner's permit, or identification card, which has not been expired for more than 365 days.
  • Certified copy of high school or college records from a United States jurisdiction or territory reflecting your full name and date of birth.
  • Unexpired United States military identification card or discharge papers (DD-214).
  • Unexpired health insurance card reflecting your full name and date of birth.
  • Unexpired identification card issued by a government agency reflecting the expiration date and the your full name, date of birth, and photo.

How do I verify my Social Security number?

1. You can submit ONE of the following:

  • Original Social Security card with your name, Social Security number and signature;
  • Social Security Administration verification printout reflecting full name and Social Security Number;
  • Letter with photo from Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) or the DC Department of Corrections indicating the name and Social Security Number.

2. OR, if you do not have any of the documents listed above, you can submit TWO of the following:

  • Payroll statement issued within the last 12 months containing name and Social Security number.
  • United States military identification card or discharge papers (DD-214).
  • Unexpired health insurance card reflecting your full name and Social Security Number.
  • Unexpired identification card issued by government agency reflecting full name and Social Security Number.
  • IRS W-2 (wage and tax statement) issued within the last 12 months.
  • Original letter or correspondence from the IRS or DC Office of Tax and Revenue referencing Social Security Number received within the last 12 months.
  • Government-certified copy of Federal or State tax return filed in one of the last two tax years.

See below for information about getting a new or replacement Social Security card.

How do I verify that I am a D.C. resident?

As proof of residency, you must submit an original:

  • Utility bill (water, gas, electric, oil or cable) with name and address, issued within the last 60 days.
  • Telephone bill (no cell phone, wireless or pager bills acceptable) reflecting your name and current address, issued within the last 60 days.
  • Deed or settlement agreement.
  • Unexpired lease or rental agreement with your name listed as the lessee or renter.
  • D.C. property tax bill.
  • Unexpired homeowner's insurance policy reflecting name and address.
  • Letter with photo from Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) or the DC Department of Corrections indicating your name and residence.

If you are homeless or cannot produce any of the above documents, you can submit a Proof of Residency Form, available here, which requires the signature of a D.C. resident willing to certify that you live with him or her. The form must be accompanied by a copy of the certifier's valid D.C. driver's license or valid D.C. non-driver identification and one of the above residency verification documents for person signing the form.

DMV has sometimes accepted a letter from a shelter as proof of residency, but that is not reflected in any official documents or rules from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I don't have a Social Security card, or my Social Security card has been lost.  How do I get a new or replacement card?

You can apply for a Social Security card or replacement card by completing an Application For a Social Security Card (Form SS-5), available here, and mailing or taking it to one of the local Social Security offices:

  • 2100 M Street, NW, Mon - Fri 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • 7820 Eastern Avenue, NW, Mon - Fri 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • 1905-B 9th Street, NE, Mon - Fri 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • 2041 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE, Suite 130, Mon - Fri 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

You must show original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency that prove U.S. citizenship or immigration status, age and identity.

  • As proof of citizenship or immigration status, the Social Security Administration will accept:
    • U.S. birth certificate;
    • U.S. consular report of birth;
    • U.S. passport;
    • Certificate of Naturalization;
    • Certificate of U.S. Citizenship.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must present your current immigration documents.

  • A U.S. birth certificate is sufficient for proof of age. If one is not available, the Social Security Administration will accept a passport and may accept other documents like medical records.
  • As proof of identity, the Social Security Administration will want to see:
    • U.S. driver's license;
    • State-issued non-driver identification card; or
    • U.S. passport.

If none of these documents is available, the Social Security Administration will want to see as many of the following documents as are available:

  • Employee ID card;
  • School ID card;
  • Marriage document;
  • Health Insurance card (not a Medicare card);
  • U.S. military ID card;
  • Adoption decree;
  • Life insurance policy.

The Social Security Administration website has additional useful information about Social Security numbers and cards.

My birth certificate has been lost.  How do I get another one?

If you were born in the District of Columbia, you can apply in person for a replacement Birth Certificate at Vital Records, 899 N. Capitol St., NE, 1st Floor, 20002.

You must present photo identification. If they do not have photo identification, Vital Records may accept school records, medical records or other alternative documents, but that is not reflected in any official documents or rules from the Office of Vital Records.

The Birth Certificate application form is available here. You can find additional information at the Department of Health.

If you were not born in the District of Columbia, click here for information on how to request birth records from other states.

How much does it cost to get a non-driver photo I.D., new or replacement Social Security Card, or birth certificate?

  • Non-driver identification card: $20.00, although there is no cost to persons aged 65 or older or ex-offenders released within six months of their application.
  • Social Security card or replacement card: ALWAYS FREE.
  • D.C. birth certificate: The fee for the original long-form certificate is $23.00. The fee for the computer short-form certificate is $18.00. The Office of Vital Records will not waive the fee.
  • Birth certificates from other states: varies by state, click here for more information.

Can I get financial help to pay the costs of getting a birth certificate or identification card?

Two organizations that we are aware of provide funds to individuals to cover the fees required for obtaining identification documents:

  • Transition Assistance Program, Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, One Chevy Chase Circle, (202) 363-4817, Hours: T,W,F, 9:00 - 11:30 a.m.
  • Walk-in Mission, Foundry United Methodist Church, 16th and P Street, NW, (202) 332-4010, Friday only, 9:00 - 12:00 p.m. It is recommended that you be in line by 8:00, as the first 15 people in line will be served. You should bring a referral letter from a shelter, social worker, or other social, medical, or legal service provider.
Last Review and Update: Aug 23, 2011