Driving is an essential part of daily life in the U.S. Whether you’re driving to work, picking up your kids from school, or taking a weekend road trip, you have to have a valid license in order to drive legally. In some states, applicants have to provide proof of a Social Security Number when they apply for their driver’s license. Unfortunately, this can present a roadblock for the estimated 10-12.2 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the U.S.
Luckily, 16 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. have laws with provisions that allow people with irregular immigration circumstances to obtain a driver's license. This article provides everything you need to know about this important document and how to get one no matter your status.
What is a driver's license for undocumented immigrants?
Generally speaking, a driver's license for undocumented immigrants authorizes the owner to drive a motor vehicle within the United States. The license or permit characteristics, like the authorized vehicle, validity, etc., vary depending on the state, but they all allow the owner to drive legally in the U.S.
Why is it a driver's license for undocumented immigrants instead of a regular license?
A lot of states require proof of U.S. citizenship to issue a driver's license. That’s why people with irregular immigration statuses can only apply for this type of special license.
Characteristics of driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants
The characteristics of this license depend on the state. In some cases, they have the caption “not valid as ID” written on them to prevent people from using them to vote. Others have a shorter validity than regular licenses. Although a few characteristics differ from a regular license, all driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants allow the owner to drive legally throughout the country.
How to get a driver’s license for undocumented immigrants in each state
We’ve prepared a short handbook to help guide you through the process of applying for a driver's license for undocumented immigrants in the states that allow it.
California was one of the first states to pass a law issuing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. In California, these licenses are called AB 60. To get one, you’ll have to go through the following process (to access the site in another language, press “Translate” at the top and select your language):
- Fill out the application for a California driver's license.
- Study the California Driver's Handbook for the written test.
- Schedule an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
- At your appointment, you’ll have to:
- Show proof of identity and residency.
- Pay the license fee.
- Provide thumbprints.
- Pass the vision test.
- Take a photo.
- Pass the traffic law knowledge test.
- Pass the traffic sign test (if applicable.)
In Colorado a driver's license for undocumented immigrants is sometimes called a “marked license” because it has a black line indicating that it can’t be used to vote or obtain government benefits. It’s also called a “license SB-251.” Below are the steps to apply for a SB-251:
- Call 303-205-2335 to schedule an appointment at an office that accepts applications for this type of license.
- Bring the following documents to your appointment:
In Connecticut, the driver's license for undocumented immigrants is also known as Drive Only. To get a Drive Only, you’ll have to meet the following requirements:
- Present two forms of identification. At least one has to be a primary identification document:
- A passport from your country of origin (which hasn’t expired within the last three years); and/or
- A valid consular identification card (like a Mexican Consular ID Card).
- If you only have one of the two primary forms of identification, you’ll have to supplement with a secondary form of identification such as:
- A foreign ID card (valid or expired);
- A foreign driver's license with safety measures;
- An original foreign birth certificate (with a raised seal);
- A marriage certificate issued by any U.S. state or territory.
- You’ll also have to show documents proving that you’ve lived in Connecticut for at least 90 days.
Delaware law allows immigrants with irregular status to obtain a driving privilege card. You’ll have to meet the following requirements to obtain a license:
- Be over 18.
- Obtain a learner's permit after completing physical exams, a vision test, and a written test.
- Wait for a period between ten days and six months.
- Fill out an I-94 form.
- Be accompanied by someone with a valid Delaware driver's license.
- Take a driving test. You’ll need to bring a car with a valid registration and insurance.
- Pay the fee for your new license.
In the Aloha State driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants are referred to as “limited purpose licenses.” In other words, they don’t function as a means of identification for federal purposes. The process to obtain your driver's license for undocumented immigrants is below:
- Call the licensing office of your county of residence to make an appointment and ask about the fees you’ll have to pay. The phone numbers for these offices are:
- Maui: (808) 270-7363
- Kauai: (808) 241-4242
- Honolulu: (808) 768-9100
- Hawaii: (808) 961-2222
- Bring the documents proving your identity and residence. You can find a list of valid documents here.
- Complete the driving test and vision test.
- Pay the application fee.
Since 2014 Illinois DMV offices issue licenses for undocumented immigrants in the form of a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL). Follow these steps to obtain one:
- Prove that you’ve lived in Illinois for at least a year.
- Prove your identity with your passport or consular identification card from your country of origin.
- Show a second form of identification.
- Take and pass the written, driving, and vision test.
- Show proof of insurance for your vehicle.
- Pay the $30 fee for a driver’s license for an automobile or $35 for a motorcycle license.
Maryland issues official identification as licenses for residents with irregular immigration status. To obtain a Maryland driver's license, you’ll have to take the following steps:
- Prove that you've paid taxes in the State of Maryland for at least two years.
- Show your ITIN.
- Obtain a certified letter from the Office of the Comptroller of Maryland (you can find information about their services here).
- Show a current valid ID like your passport or consular registration.
- Show two documents proving your residence (like a lease, electric, phone, or internet bills, bank statements, etc.).
- Schedule an appointment for your written and driving test.
- Driving test requirements may be different if you already have a valid driver's license from another jurisdiction:
- If you already have a driver's license, you’ll have to take a three-hour class on the Drug and Alcohol Education Program.
- If you don’t have a license, you’ll have to get a learner's permit and take a Driver’s Education class before you take your test.
Since 2021, the state of New Jersey has issued standard driver's licenses to everyone regardless of their immigration status. Here is an overview of the application process:
- First, you’ll have to get a learner's permit by:
- Making an appointment here.
- Filling out, printing, and signing the permit application.
- Bringing your application and the necessary documents to your appointment (you can find a list of accepted documents here.)
- NOTE: As of mid 2021, showing a SSN or ITIN is not required. Instead you can fill out this affidavit indicating that you’re not eligible to have these documents.
- Take the knowledge and vision tests with your learner's permit. You can schedule an appointment to take these tests here. Tests are available in English or Spanish.
- Depending on your age and if you have a driver's license from another state, you may have a minimum waiting period before you can take your driving test. Once you pass, you’ll receive a probationary driver’s license which is valid for a year.
- After a year, you’ll be able to request your regular driver's license. You can do this online.
The New York DMV accepts applications for standard driver's licenses from all residents regardless of their immigration status. The following is the procedure for applying:
- Study New York State Driver's Guide and complete the written knowledge test. You can do it at a DMV office or online.
- Take a pre-licensing course with a provider authorized by the state (driving schools, high schools, and colleges.) This course lasts five hours, and you’ll receive a MV-285 or MV-278 certificate upon completion. You’ll need this certificate for the next step.
- Bring the necessary documents to verify your identity and residency in the State of New York.
- Go to your nearest DMV office and pay the corresponding fees for your license. The price will depend on your age, so we recommend visiting this site to find out how much you’ll owe.
Although people with an irregular immigration status can’t obtain a driver's license in Nevada, they can apply for a Driver Authorization Card (DAC) which allows the owner to drive legally. However, it doesn’t serve as a form of identification. To obtain a DAC, you’ll have to do the following:
- Bring the necessary documents, divided into three categories:
- Proof of identity. The Nevada State Government accepts different forms of identification, but the most relevant for immigrants are a passport, birth certificate, and the consular ID card from your country of origin.
- Translation of your original documents. If your original documents aren’t in English, you’ll have to get a translation completed by a state-certified translator. Plenty of people and companies provide this service.
- Proof of Nevada residence. You’ll have to show two documents proving that you live in Nevada. You can find a list of valid options on the bottom left hand side of this document.
- Fill out the driver authorization card application form here.
- Make an appointment at a DMV office in Carson City, Henderson, Las Vegas, or Reno.
- The DMV will tell you the next steps depending on your age and whether or not you’ve had a driver’s license before. All applicants must pass a vision test, and some have to take practical and/or knowledge tests.
People with irregular immigration status can obtain a traditional driver's license in Oregon, but the document isn’t a part of the “Real ID” program. In other words, the driver's license isn’t a form of identification for federal purposes. Below is the process that you’ll have to follow in order to obtain an Oregon driver’s license for undocumented immigrants:
- Study the Oregon Driver's Manual. This document serves as the basis for the questions on the test that you’ll have to take.
- Fill out the online application here or go to your nearest DMV location.
- Make an appointment at a DMV office online or by phone at 503-945-5000.
- Bring necessary documents to prove your identity and residency. For proof of identity, you'll need a primary document or two secondary documents. To confirm that you live in Oregon, you'll need proof of residence.
- Complete the vision test administered by the DMV office on the day of your appointment.
- During the same appointment, you'll have to pay a $5 written test fee. This test has 35 multiple choice questions. You'll have to answer 28 questions correctly to pass.
- Make an appointment for your practical driving test. There are two ways to take this test:
- At a DMV office. The test costs $9, and you'll have to bring your own car with valid insurance and registration. You can schedule an appointment for this test by calling 503-945-5000.
- Apply through an authorized driving school. In this case, the test fee is between $60 and $75, but the school will provide you with a car for the test. You can find information on the companies authorized to administer this test here.
- Go to the nearest DMV and pay the $60 fee, provide all the documentation, and get your photo taken for the license.
The Utah driver's license for undocumented immigrants is called the Driving Privilege Card (DPC). Similar to other states, these licenses can’t be used as personal identification, but they do allow the owner to drive legally throughout the country. To apply for the DPC, you’ll have to complete the following steps:
- Schedule an appointment at any Department of Driver's Licenses office (DLD.) You can find a list of locations by county here.
- Fill out a DLD-6A driver’s license application at your appointment.
- Get your photo taken for your license.
- Show a driver’s license issued by another jurisdiction (from your country of origin or another U.S. state) or proof that you took a driver education course.
- Prove your identity and residence in Utah using these forms of documentation.
- Have your fingerprints taken.
- Pass the knowledge test on traffic laws and the practical driving test.
- Complete the vision exam administered at the DMV.
- Pay the fees for your new driver's license.
Like Utah, you can apply for a Driver's Privilege Card in Vermont that acts as a driver's license for undocumented immigrants, but it isn't valid as federal identification. In order to obtain this card, you’ll have to:
- Fill out the Vermont driver's license application form. You can find the application here.
- Request an appointment at your local DMV office.
- Bring the necessary documents to prove your identity and residence. You can find a list of accepted documents on the first page of this document.
- Complete and pass the vision test, the driving test, and the traffic law knowledge test. To find the information you need to pass the knowledge test, we recommend studying this document.
- Pay the fees for your new driver's license. How much you pay depends on your age and the county where you apply. If you want to know the amount in advance, you can call 888-99-VERMONT (888.998.3766) to find out.
The Virginia driver's license for undocumented immigrants is also called DPC. Unlike other states, you can only get a DPC if you have an ITIN and can demonstrate that you paid taxes in the State of Virginia during the prior year. The following are the steps to obtaining your Virginia license:
- Bring the necessary documents for the application. On this page, you’ll find a useful guide to the specific documents that are required by the DMV. Usually you’ll have to bring:
- Two documents proving your identity.
- Two pieces of proof of residence.
- Proof of Social Security Number or ITIN.
- Documentation from your last tax return.
- Fill out the DL-10 driver's license application.
- Pay the $50 license fee.
- Take the knowledge test on traffic laws. You can do this at a DMV customer service center or at an authorized school. This test is available in different languages, including Spanish.
- Go to a Virginia DMV customer service center to complete your vision test (if necessary) and the practical driving test.
- Once you pass the required tests, you’ll receive a temporary driver's permit, and your driving privilege card will be mailed to the address listed in the DMV register.
This state has been issuing driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants since 2014. The process to obtain a license is pretty similar to other states and consists of the following steps:
- First, you’ll fill out a registration form. The easiest way to do this is online, but you can also go into any Department of Licensing (DOL) office.
- Then, you’ll take the written test on traffic laws. This test consists of 40 questions, and you’ll have to answer 32 correctly to pass. We recommend using this guide to study.
- You’ll have to take a driving test at a state-authorized school. To find a school near you, we recommend Googling “driving school in the name of the county you live in”. The fee for this test will vary depending on the school.
- Bring your documents proving your identity and residency in the State of Washington to a DOL office. You can find a list of accepted documents here.
- During the appointment, you’ll probably have to complete a medical exam or vision test.
- After two weeks, the DOL will mail you a form to fill out and send back or fax to them.
- Finally, you’ll have to pay the issuance fee and wait for your new license to arrive in the mail.
District of Columbia
In Washington, D.C. the driver's license for undocumented immigrants is known as the “limited purpose driver's license.” Similar to other states, this document can’t be used for identification purposes. Below are the steps to getting a limited purpose driver’s license:
- Get all the necessary documents for the application ready - you’ll need proof of identity and proof that you’ve lived in Washington D.C. for at least six months. You’ll also need to fill out this form declaring that you’ve never had and do not currently have a SSN.
- Go to a DMV office to start the process. They accept walk-ins, but we recommend making an appointment in order to expedite the process.
- Study the District of Columbia Driver's Manual to prepare for the written test.
- Go to the DMV office with all the necessary documents, $10 proof of payment for the knowledge test and $20 proof of payment for the learner's permit.
- If you pass your written test, you’ll get a learner's permit. Otherwise you’ll have to repeat the steps above.
- Schedule an appointment for your driving test.
- Practice on the highway before the date of your test. Keep in mind that you’ll have to have your learner's permit and be accompanied by someone over 21 with a valid driver's license.
- Go to the driving test center (located in Brentwood) for your appointment. You’ll have to bring someone over 21 who has a driver's license and bring a registered and insured vehicle.
- If you pass your practical driving test you’ll get your driver's license!
It's Time to Drive!
We hope this guide has been helpful in walking you through the the process for obtaining a driver's license as an undocumented immigrants. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to drive without a license in the U.S., so we strongly recommend that you get one if you haven’t already.If you have any questions about this topic or anything else, feel free to contact us via chat, and a member of our team will be happy to help you.