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Working with Banks, the Driver's License Center, the Social Security Office and other Business Agencies

This is only a brief overview on these topics. More details will be given at student orientation sessions and ESL staff will be available to assist during the semester.

Arrive prepared.

  • Bring all documents (such as passport, I-20 form, and copy of current I-94).
  • Be familiar with the procedure and requirements.
  • A letter with proof of current enrollment may be requested from the ESL Institute office if needed.

Plan your time carefully

  • Be prepared for long lines and considerable waits.

If you have an appointment, be on time.

  • Punctuality is valued and is a way of being respectful.
  • If you miss an appointment you may have to reschedule for another day.

Know the rules that protect you. 

  • Show a copy of the Social Security Publication No. 05-10096 or No. 05-10181 if needed to prove that you are ineligible for a SSN. 
  • Banks may use the W-8 in place of Social Security cards. For more information on Form W-8 BEN, go to
  • The Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles (DVM) provides a list to their employees with all visa types that are not required to show SSN for driver’s certificate.  There is a Social Security Number Affidavit form that you will need to complete and use.

 Remain calm and polite

 When all else fails, leave and come back later with more documentation or information.

  • If no one can help you at the time you visit a business or agency, come back when a higher-level authority is available;
  • Or ask to speak to someone with experience with internationals. 
  • If the ESL coordinator can be of assistance, ask for an official letter on your behalf.

 Open a bank account at the bank’s main office instead of a branch office.

Be patient and flexible.  Most businesses use computer systems that run on Social Security numbers.  Not using a SSN is not impossible but can take more time.  Showing proof to the person you are working with that you are not eligible for a SSN could be helpful (see "Know the rules" above). 

Driver’s Licenses

  • You do not need a Social Security number to get a driver’s license, if you have an F visa. (You may need to complete Social Security Number Affidavit form.) 
  • Check with the ESL coordinator to ensure your SEVIS record is in active status. You should wait at least 10 days after you enter the country and 48 hours after your record has been activated (registered) in SEVIS for the current term.
  • A letter with proof of current enrollment and local address may be requested from the ESL Institute office if needed.
  • Be sure to bring all required documents--valid passport with visa, I-20 form, copy of current I-94, proof of residency, etc. (See Temporary Driver License)
  • Be prepared for long lines at the driver’s license office.
  • Make an appointment for your road driving tests, but remember you can only take the road test after you have passed both the written and the vision tests.
  • For more information and directions to the Clarksville center or to make an appointment online, go to
  • Study for the written test at

Social Security

In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can apply for a Social Security number.  Lawfully admitted noncitizens can get many benefits and services without a Social Security number.

Although sometimes requested, it is not required that you have a social security number for things such as:

  • Obtaining a driver’s license.
  • Applying to rent/purchase a house or apartment.
  • Applying for a bank account.
  • Registering for school.
  • Obtaining health insurance.

What is the purpose of businesses wanting social security numbers?

The main use of Social Security numbers (SSN) by businesses and landlords is to verify credit history.  International students usually do not have any credit history since they have recently moved to the U.S., so it is useless for businesses to run a credit check on a SSN or to even ask for a SSN.

Many businesses will say that it is a requirement for the customer to provide a Social Security number.  However, this is not true. Social Security numbers are the most common form of identification in the U.S., but they are not the only form of legal acceptable identification. 

Where do I go to apply for a social security number?

The Clarksville Social Security Administration office is located at 119 Center Pointe Drive which is off Wilma Rudolph Boulevard between 101st Airborne Parkway and Trenton Road---from Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, turn onto Center Pointe Drive at the US Bank sign (red, white and blue sign).

Get a map, phone number and hours here (enter ZIP code).

What do I need to bring?

Completed Form SS-5 application (online), valid passport, I-20 form, current I-94, proof of job/employment documents (letter, job contract, employment authorization EAD), etc.)

You must bring ALL these documents, or your application will be denied.

When can I apply?

You should wait at least 10 days after you enter the country and 48 hours after your record has been activated (registered) in SEVIS for the current term.

For more information about Social Security numbers and regulations regarding SSN, see


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