Immigration & Naturalization Law

Can Undocumented Immigrants Get a Driver's License?

Immigrants who do not have the legal documents to reside in the United States can face significant restrictions. One of these is getting an identification card or a driver’s license.

These documents are issued by each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) based on a person’s Social Security number. Since an undocumented immigrant does not have access to Social Security, it can be impossible for them to apply.

Changing Laws Surrounding Driver’s Licenses

Many state lawmakers argue that obtaining a license guarantees better safety for all drivers and pedestrians.

A driver’s license for undocumented immigrants would allow foreigners to cope more practically and safely with their daily activities. Things like taking their children to school and buying an insurance policy for their car would become easier and safer.

They could also train in the state’s traffic laws in which they live, take their theoretical driving test, and then show their practical driving skills to certify that they understand the state’s traffic rules.

Some States Do Allow Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants

The latest opinion in favor of collective security has led some U.S. states to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a special driver’s license.

There is no federal law that grants the benefit of a driver’s license for an undocumented person. Only a few states allow the possession of a driver’s license and their respective limitations. A foreign driver’s license and a tax identification number (ITIN) must be provided in many cases.

Common Features of Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

A driver’s license for undocumented immigrants has certain restrictions, which vary depending on the state where you reside.

In general, almost every state considers the following:

  • Licenses are only good for driving and buying insurance. They don’t allow federal benefits. To comply with the obligations of the Real ID law, these states have established use limitations on their special licenses.
  • These licenses have differences in their design and appearance. For example, unlike regular licenses, they say “not valid for identification” or “not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefits purposes.”
  • They cannot be used as a document that guarantees you permanent legal residence or citizenship.
  • It is forbidden to use them to vote in U.S. elections
  • They do not allow access to a federal building
  • It is prohibited to use them as a valid document to travel on a commercial airplane.
  • They do not exempt anyone from the theoretical and practical driving test

What States Give Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants?

This chart shows various state laws covering driver’s licenses and REAL ID requirements for undocumented immigrants. Not all states have applicable laws at this time.

State Law Approval Date Regulations of the Law Effective Date
California AB 60 Chapter 524 2013 You must prove that you are a resident of the state of California and that you do not qualify for a Social Security number. The license says, “federal limits apply.” Jan. 1, 2015
Colorado SB 13-251 Session 42-2-104 2013 You must verify your identity with a passport or consular ID, have filed your taxes with the state during the year before applying for the license, or have your taxpayer identification number and prove that you lived the last 24 months in the state. The license says “not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefits purposes.” Aug. 1, 2014
Connecticut H 6495 Public Act 1389 2013 You have to verify your identity with your passport or consular registration and prove your residence in the state of Connecticut. In addition, you must submit an affidavit stating that your immigration status will be legalized as soon as you are eligible. The document is not valid as proof of identity and is issued for 3 to 6 years. The license says “not for federal identification.” Jan. 1, 2015
Delaware S 59 2711 Title 21 2015 The law allows undocumented immigrants to have a card with driving privileges. The applicant must prove that they have filed their taxes or are a dependent of someone who has filed their taxes with the state in the last two years. The card says “driving privilege only – not valid for identification.” Dec. 27, 2015
District of Columbia (D.C.) B20-275 Driver Safety Amendment 2013 The law in this state allows a driver’s card valid for eight years to anyone who can prove that they are a D.C. resident for more than six months, who does not have a Social Security number, and who can prove their ID. May 1, 2014
Hawaii H 1007 2015 This state grants a driver’s license to individuals who cannot prove their legal stay in the country. Applicants must provide some proof of identity and proof of state residency. The document says “not acceptable for official federal purposes.” Jan. 1, 2016
Illinois S 0957 2013 Illinois law provides a temporary license for visitors who do not qualify for a Social Security number, have resided in Illinois for more than one year, and cannot show legal documents about their stay in the country. The applicant must show with their application a valid passport or consular registration number. The license is valid for 3 years and it says “not valid for identification.” Nov. 28, 2013
Maryland SB 715 2013 It allows individuals without a Social Security number to have a license if they have filed their taxes or are the dependent of someone who has filed taxes with the state in the last two years. The license is a different color from the ones legal residents carry and says “not acceptable for federal purposes.” Jan. 1, 2014
Nevada SB 303 2013 This state issues a one-year driver’s card for those who do not have a valid Social Security number and regardless of their legal status. The applicant must prove their identity with a birth certificate or passport. The card differs from the official driver’s license and says “not valid for identification.” Jan. 1, 2014
New Jersey A4743 (p.21) 2019 The law mandates two types of documents. One is the Real ID under federal guidelines, and the other is a standard driver’s license that any New Jersey resident can obtain without discrimination based on immigration status. It is also prohibited to disclose the personal information of those who have the standard driver’s license for immigration-related purposes unless there is authorization from the individual. Jan. 1, 2021
New Mexico H 173 2003 The applicant must present a taxpayer identification number if they do not have a Social Security number to obtain their standard driver’s license, regardless of their status of legal permanence. The document says “not valid for federal purposes.” 2003
New York A3675 2019 New York law establishes that no person or public entity may disclose the information of an applicant for a driver’s license to be used for purposes of determining their immigration status. The applicant must provide proof of identity, such as a valid passport or a driver’s license from their country of origin with less than 24 months of expiration or the consular registration number. But they do not need to prove immigration status, and if they do not have a Social Security number, they must provide an affidavit stating that one has not been assigned. The license is not a REAL ID; therefore, it does not meet federal requirements. Dec. 14, 2019
Oregon HB 2015 2019 The law eliminated the requirement to prove the legality of immigration status to have a driver’s license. However, the applicant must prove identity with a passport, or consular registration, or license from her country of origin, or license issued by another state. The license is standard, and it is not the REAL ID. Therefore it does not comply with federal requirements. Aug. 9, 2019
Utah S 227 2005 This state issues a special card with driving privileges valid for one year. The applicant must prove that they are a resident of the state of Utah for at least six months and provide a taxpayer number. The card says “not valid for identification driving privilege only.” Mar. 8, 2005
Vermont S 38 2013 State law allows an immigrant without legal status in the country to obtain a special driving document called an operator privilege card. To apply, proof of identity must be provided through a valid passport, birth certificate, consular registration, or marriage certificate. You also have to prove that you are a resident of the state. The document says, “driver’s privilege card not for federal identification.” Jan. 1, 2014
Washington H 1444 1993 The applicant must prove that they are a state resident by presenting a bill for their services, or documents from the school, or university. They must also prove their identity. The card says “driver’s license – federal limits apply.” July 25, 1993
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