Last updated on: 7/26/2021 | Author: ProCon.org

States (and DC) That Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Obtain Driver’s Licenses

(as of July 26, 2021)

Sample Nevada driver’s authorization card for undocumented immigrants. The card is distinguished from driver’s licenses for legal residents by the words “Not Valid for Identification” above the blue bar.

Undocumented immigrants 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, 16 states and DC allow undocumented immigrants 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 undocumented residents. These ID cards cannot be used as driver’s licenses.

California

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2015
Bill: AB 60 
Law: Chapter 524, Statutes of 2013
Date Signed: Oct. 3, 2013

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.


Colorado

Date Effective: Aug. 1, 2014
Bill: SB 13-251 
Law: Session Law 42-2-104
Date Signed: June 5, 2013

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.”


Connecticut

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2015
Bill: HB 6495
Law: Public Act 13-89
Date Signed: June 6, 2013

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.


Delaware

Date Effective: Dec. 27, 2015
Bill: S 59
Law: § 2711, Title 21
Date Signed: June 30, 2015

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.


District of Columbia

Date Effective: May 1, 2014
Bill: B20-275
Law: Driver’s Safety Amendment Act of 2013
Date Signed: Nov. 18, 2013

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.”


Hawaii

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2016
Bill: H 1007
Law: Act 172
Date Signed: July 2, 2015

The law allows for the issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Applicants are required to provide proof of Hawaii residency.


Illinois

Date Effective: Nov. 28, 2013
Bill: SB 0957
Law: Public Act 097-1157
Date Signed: Jan. 27, 2013

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.


Maryland

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2014
Bill: SB 715
Law: Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013
Date Signed: May 2, 2013

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.


Nevada

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2014
Bill: SB 303
Law: Chapter 282
Date Signed: May 31, 2013

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.


New Jersey

Date Effective: May 1, 2021
Bill: A4743
Law: PL 2019, CHAPTER 271
Date Signed: Dec. 19, 2019

The law creates two types of licenses. One is the federally accepted REAL ID. The second is a Standard Basic license that is available to any New Jersey resident regardless of immigration status. The law also prohibits discrimination against people with Standard Basic licenses.


New Mexico

Date Effective: 2003
Bill: HB 173
Law: 1978, Chapter 35, Section 231
Date Signed: Mar. 18, 2003

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.”


New York

Date Effective: Dec. 14, 2019
Bill: A3675B
Law: Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act
Date Signed: June 17, 2019

The law prevents any records used to obtain a driver’s license from being public record or being otherwise disclosed except by warrant or other court order. The law also expands the documents allowed to be used as proof of identity to include but not limited to an unexpired foreign passport, a foreign driver’s license that is less than 24 months expired, and a consular identification document, but the driver will not have to prove legal residency. The driver may sign an affidavit declaring a social security number has not been issued to them, instead of submitting a social security number. The licenses will be identical to other licenses but will not meet REAL ID federal standards.


Oregon

Date Effective: Aug. 9, 2019
Bill: H2015
Law: Equal Access to Roads Act
Date Signed: Aug. 9, 2019

The law eliminates a requirement that residents show proof of legal residence in order to obtain a license. Residents may provide proof of identity, address, and date of birth with an unexpired passport or consular document from the person’s country of citizenship; an Oregon driver license, permit, or identification card that has been expired for less than 13 years; or a driver’s license from another state (valid or expired less than a year) application.


Utah

Date Effective: Mar. 8, 2005
Bill: SB 227
Law: Title 53 Chapter 3 Section 207
Date Signed: Mar. 8, 2005

The law allows the DMV to issue a “driving privilege” card to undocumented immigrants 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.


Vermont

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2014
Bill: S 38
Law: Sec. 1. 23 V.S.A. § 603
Date Signed: June 5, 2013

The law allows undocumented residents of Vermont 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.


Virginia

Date Effective: Jan. 1, 2021
Bill: HB 1211/SB 34
Date Signed: Apr. 22, 2020

The law creates a separate drivers permit for those who do not meet the drivers license requirements. The resident must have filed Virginia taxes or have been reported as a dependent on Virginia taxes within the year. The card will look the same as a driver’s license on the front and the same as a limited-duration license on the back. The card expires on the person’s second birthday after obtaining the card.


Washington

Date Effective: July 25, 1993
Bill: HB 1444
Law: Chapter 452, Laws of 1993
Date Signed: May 17, 1993

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.



Sources:

Ilona Bray, “Can Undocumented Immigrants Get Drivers’ Licenses?,” lawyers.com (accessed Dec. 4, 2018)

National Conference of State Legislatures, “States Offering Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants,” ncsl.org, Feb. 8, 2021

National Immigration Law Center, “Current & Pending State Laws & Policies on Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants/February 2014,” nilc.org, Feb. 2014

National Immigration Law Center, “State Laws Providing Access to Driver’s Licenses or Cards Regardless of Immigration Status,” nilc.org, Feb. 2014

Kirk Semple, “In Trenton, Issuing IDs for Illegal Immigrants,” nytimes.com, May 16, 2010