Immigrants in the country illegally cannot produce the necessary documents (like a social security card) to obtain a driver’s license under state laws. Beginning in 1993 with Washington state, 12 states and DC have changed their laws to allow immigrants in the country illegally to obtain driver's licenses. Those states hope to encourage unlicensed drivers to pass the driver's license test and obtain car insurance.
Some city governments, including San Francisco, CA, New Haven, CT, and Asbury Park, NJ, issue photo identification cards to residents who are in the country illegally. These ID cards cannot be used as driver's licenses.
Sample Nevada driver's authorization card for immigrants in the country illegally. The card is distinguished from driver's licenses for legal residents by the words "Not Valid for Identification" above the blue bar.
The law requires the DMV to issue a California driver's license to anyone who can satisfactorily establish California residency. If the driver cannot show proof of legal residency (with a social security number, for example), the license will have a "recognizable feature" to distinguish the license from those issued to legal residents. The law makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone who holds a driver's license with that mark. The license may not be used for identification purposes.
Law Description: The law provides driver's licenses to people who filed Colorado state income taxes in the previous year and can show proof of current state residence, or who have an Individual Taxpayer ID and proof of 24 months of state residency, with a passport, consular ID, or military ID. The license will state "Not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefits purposes."
Law Description: The law allows an individual who cannot provide a social security number or other proof of lawful presence to obtain a driver's license if he/she presents proof of identity and Connecticut residency, and signs an affidavit stating he/she will file an application to legalize his/her immigration status or will file an application as soon as he/she is eligible. The law excludes convicted felons. The license cannot be used for proof of identity or voting and is valid for three to six years.
The law allows an undocumented immigrant to acquire a "driving privilege card." The applicant must show proof of having filed a Delaware income tax return or being a dependent of someone who has filed a Delaware income tax return for the past two years. The card can not be considered a valid form of identification.
5. District of Columbia
May 1, 2014
Bill:B20-275 Law: Driver's Safety Amendment Act of 2013
Date Signed: Nov. 18, 2013
Law Description: The law allows for the issuance of licenses that are valid for eight years to people who can prove DC residency for more than six months, do not have a social security number, and can provide proof of identity, date of birth, and residency. The card will be marked "Not valid for official federal purposes." The licenses may not be used "to consider an individual's citizenship or immigration status, or as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest, or detention."
Law Description: The law provides driver's licenses to people who are ineligible for social security numbers, have resided in Illinois for over one year, and are unable to present documentation of a legal presence in the country. The applicant needs to provide a valid passport or consular identification. The license will be valid for three years, cannot be used as proof of identity, and will be marked as a temporary visitor's driver's license in capital letters.
Jan. 1, 2014
Bill:SB 715 Law: Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013
Date Signed: May 2, 2013
Law Description: The law allows people without social security numbers to obtain a driver's license if they have filed a Maryland tax return or were claimed as a dependent of someone who filed a Maryland tax return for the past two years. The driver's license must have a design or color to distinguish it from other driver's licenses and identification cards, may not be used for federal identification purposes, and may not be used to purchase a firearm.
Law Description: The law stipulates that the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles may not release information regarding the legal status of any person applying for a driver's license. The license will be valid for one year and available to people who can prove identity, age, and residence in Nevada. The license card will have minimal distinguishing marks and cannot be used to determine eligibility for other benefits.
Law Description: The law allows for an applicant to provide an individual tax identification number or other document designated by the department instead of a social security number "regardless of immigration status."
Law Description: The law allows the DMV to issue a "driving privilege" card to people in the country illegally who can prove Utah residency. The card is distinguished from a regular driver's license by format, color, or other visual means and is clearly marked with "FOR DRIVING PRIVILEGES ONLY--NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION." The card may not be used for government identification and is valid for one year.
Law Description: The law allows residents of Vermont in the country illegally to obtain an "operator's privilege card" if they provide proof of name; date; and place of birth via a valid foreign passport, a valid consular identification document, or a certified birth, marriage, adoption, or divorce certificate; and proof of Vermont residency. The card will be marked "privilege card" and cannot be used for federal identification and will expire on midnight the night before the applicant's second birthday after issuance.
Law Description: The law allows driver's licenses to be issued without a social security number if the applicant can provide proof of Washington residency via a home utility bill, a college or university document, a Selective Service card, a car title, bank-issued documents, individual tax identification number, Washington school transcripts or other school documents, DSHS benefits eligibility documents, or a recent Washington marriage certificate or child's birth certificate, as long as the document shows the applicant's name and current Washington residence. Other documents may be considered.
National Conference of State Legislatures, "States Offering Driver's Licenses to Immigrants," www.ncsl.org, July 8, 2015
National Immigration Law Center, "Current & Pending State Laws & Policies on Driver's Licenses for Immigrants/February 2014," www.nilc.org, Feb. 2014
National Immigration Law Center, "State Laws Providing Access to Driver's Licenses or Cards Regardless of Immigration Status," www.nilc.org, Feb. 2014
Kirk Semple, "In Trenton, Issuing IDs for Illegal Immigrants," www.nytimes.com, May 16, 2010