Q&A – States That Offer Illegal Immigrants Driver's Licenses

Today’s entry - People who drive in the U.S. must have a valid driver's license. Some states require an International Driving Permit (IDP) from foreign nationals, in addition to a valid license from your own country.

I doubt if an illegal is considered a foreign national. Foreign nationals, as far as I know, are here legally. Why should a state like PA or NJ, VA, etc. honor a driver's license issued by NY to an illegal immigrant? Should not other states have the right to deem an illegal's license as invalid in their state if that person is pulled over by a police officer, due to being in the US illegally? 

Could not the illegal be taken into custody and the vehicle he is driving be impounded? I just checked NY's DMV website. It says nothing about needing a birth certificate to obtain a DL. Florida is now requiring a birth certificate to RENEW your DL. My wife had to go back home after going to Miami Springs DMV, to get a copy of her birth certificate.

Bottom Line: This has been a hot topic over the past week with New York’s recent passage of a law allowing illegal immigrants to gain access to driver’s licenses. However, it has only gained more attention with the announcement and the postponement of ICE’s plan to begin to detain and deport illegal immigrants this week. 

First of all, it’s more common than you probably think. New York passed it last week, it won’t take effect until 2020, so don’t expect to see the new law’s info posted by New York until then. But, several other states have followed California’s lead since they passed it in 2013. These are the states that allow illegal immigrants to qualify for DL’s:

  • California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Utah, Vermont, Washington – additionally D.C. allows it as well

There are slight variances in laws between the states, but all do require valid documentation from one’s “home” country. Documents required commonly include birth certificates, passports and proof of establishment within the state, commonly an address they pay bills from and or state tax docs. To that end, these state driver’s license do act as an International Driving Permit. Regarding the use of the license outside of the state of issues into another non-participating state, that appears to largely be a non-issue due to reciprocity laws across the country. Independent of illegal immigrants, there are common differences in driving license qualifications from one state to another. Those are addressed under the Driver License Compact. Only five states aren’t members, Florida is a member. There it is in a nutshell, hopefully, that’s helpful to understand what’s happened and how it works.

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