Understanding a non citizens driver's license and its limitations


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Understanding where and how a non-citizen can get a driver’s license in the United States are crucial components in the process of gaining access to one. A foundational understanding of one’s rights, limitations, and qualifications for a non citizens driver’s license are pivotal factors so that an applicant can experience as smooth of a transition as possible throughout the process of the application.


To begin, it is important to know and understand where a person without status can apply for and gain access to a non citizens drivers license. There are currently 16 states in the U.S. that offer noncitizens the opportunity to gain access to a driver's license. Each state’s laws cover drivers licenses and REAL ID requirements for undocumented immigrants. These states and their laws are:


California

○ The state of California allows its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under AB 60 (Chapter 524: Statutes of 2013). This law went into effect on January 1, 2015.


Colorado

○ The state of Colorado allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under SB 13-251 (Session 42-2-104: Statutes of 2013). This law went into effect on August 1, 2014.


Connecticut

○ The state of Connecticut allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under H 6495 (Public Act 1389: Statutes of 2013). This law went into effect on January 1, 2015.


Delaware

○ The state of Delaware allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under S 59 (2711 Title 21: Statutes of 2015). This law went into effect on December 27, 2015.


District of Columbia (D.C.)

○ The state of the District of Columbia (D.C.) allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under B 20-275 (Driver Safety Amendment: Statutes of 2013). This law went into effect on May 1, 2014.


Hawaii

○ The state of Hawaii allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under H 1007. This law was approved in 2015 and went into effect on January 1, 2016.


Illinois

○ The state of Illinois allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under S 0957. This law was approved in 2013 and went into effect on November 28, 2013.


Maryland

○ The state of Maryland allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under SB 715. This law was approved in 2013 and went into effect on January 1, 2014.


Nevada

○ The state of Nevada allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under SB 303. This law was approved in 2013 and went into effect on January 1, 2014.


New Jersey

○ The state of New Jersey allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under A4743 (p.21). This law was approved in 2019 and went into effect on January 1, 2021.


New Mexico

○ The state of New Mexico allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under H 173. This law was approved in 2003 and went into effect in 2003.


New York

○ The state of New York allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under A3675. This law was approved in 2019 and went into effect on December 14, 2019.


Oregon

○ The state of Oregon allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under HB 2015. This law was approved in 2019 and went into effect on August 9, 2019.


Utah

○ The state of Utah allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under S 227. This law was approved in 2005 and went into effect on March 8, 2005.


Vermont

○ The state of Vermont allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under S 38. This law was approved in 2013 and went into effect on January 1, 2014.


Virginia

○ The state of Virginia allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under HB 1211/SB 34. This law was approved in 2020 and went into effect on January 1, 2021.


Washington

○ The state of Washington allows for its noncitizens to attain their drivers licenses under H 1444. This law was approved in 1993 and went into effect on July 25, 1993.


To be eligible for a non citizens drivers license application applicants must provide certain documentation to apply for a driver's license in these states. Different states require more or less requirements, but the requirements that remain the same across states include: a forein birth certificate, a foreign passport or consular card, a tax identification number (ITIN), and evidence of current residency in the state. Other than this, the standards of receiving a drivers license remain the same as other prospective drivers (for example the standards of understanding the traffic laws of your residing state and having the adequate vision to operate a vehicle).


The legal implications of obtaining a driver’s license as a non-citizen vary from state to state as well. However, for the most part, every state considers the following limitations when issuing a noncitizens driver license. The first is that licenses are only good for driving and buying insurance. This means that a noncitizens drivers license does not allow federal benefits.


This includes having access to a federal building. Secondly, these licenses are forbidden to be used to vote in any U.S. elections. Thirdly, these licenses have differences in their design and appearance. Some distinguishing factors are that noncitizen id’s read “not valid for identification” or “not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefits purposes.” Fourthly, these licenses are prohibited to be used as a valid document to travel on a commercial plane. Lastly, these licenses do not exempt anyone from the theoretical and practical driving test.


The limitations on these special licenses are set primarily to comply with obligations of the

REAL ID Law. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offers a comprehensive guide listing all documents required to apply for a non citizen driver's license on their state's corresponding websites. For more information visit REAL ID Info: Non-US Citizens - California DMV.