How Does My Immigration Status Affect My Ability to Get a Driver's License?


Quick Answer

Driver's license requirements are set by individual states, but several states grant driver's licenses or cards to eligible state residents despite immigration status, according to the National Immigration Law Center. As of 2015, 10 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow immigrants to apply for licenses.

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How Does My Immigration Status Affect My Ability to Get a Driver's License?
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Full Answer

As of January 2015, the states that either grant or plan to grant driver's licenses regardless of immigration status include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington, says the NILC.

California's Assembly Bill 60, Chapter 524: Statutes of 2013, which took effect on January 1, 2015, requires the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue applications to those who can't submit satisfactory proof of legal residence in the United States. People applying for licenses under AB 60 must provide proof of identity and California residency, according to the California DMV. They must also pass a written test and a road test. They receive special licenses that say "not acceptable for official federal purposes" such as boarding planes. In the first seven weeks of 2015, the state issued 110,000 of these special licenses.

Currently, residents of Arizona and Nebraska who are grantees of Deferred Action in Childhood Arrivals cannot get driver's licenses in Arizona or Nebraska, but litigation challenging the legality of these state regulations is ongoing. Assuming that they meet other state-specific requirements, DACA grantees can get driver's licenses in all other states, says the NILC.

A DACA grant is listed in the federal Real ID Act as one basis of eligibility for a driver's license that is recognized for certain federal purposes. This means that there are strong arguments for states to provide driver's licenses to DACA grantees, according to the NILC.

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