National Immigration Law Center
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Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

Access to Driver's Licenses


THE ONGOING DEBATE ABOUT whether all age-eligible immigrants who can pass state driving tests should be able to obtain driver’s licenses has been a distraction from the real issues that states face in promoting public safety and protecting their communities. States need to create practical, workable solutions, and denying certain immigrants licenses because of their immigration status is simply bad public policy. It increases uninsurance rates and the number of unlicensed drivers, and it undermines effective law enforcement.

Current & Pending State Laws & Policies on Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants

Showing (1) enacted law, (2) driver's license bill passed by one house of legislature, (3) bill introduced this session, and (4) states that deny driver's licenses to youth granted deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Are Individuals Granted Deferred Action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Policy Eligible for State Driver’s Licenses?

NILC continually reviews state policies that affect DACA recipients’ eligibility for driver’s licenses, focusing on whether DACA recipients fit within the current laws and policies governing issuance of licenses. This is a work in progress, which we are refining as the policies evolve.

Why Denying Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants Harms Public Safety and Makes Our Communities Less Secure (PDF)

Driver’s license restrictions won’t fix our broken immigration system.  |  State policymakers need to deal with realistic solutions, not sound bites and partisan politics.  |  Denying driver’s licenses to the undocumented population jeopardizes public safety and drives up insurance rates.  |  National security efforts are undermined by driver’s license restrictions.  |  State law enforcement efforts are undermined by driver’s license restrictions.  |  State policymakers should support practical driver’s license reforms that improve the integrity of the license.

The Impact of Driver’s License and Identification Card Restrictions on U.S. Citizens and Lawfully Present Immigrants (PDF)

Legislatures across the country have introduced and enacted proposals aimed at barring undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards. At the federal level, Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to tighten security standards on licenses and ID cards and to prevent certain immigrants from obtaining these documents. But these proposals do not simply affect undocumented immigrants. They also have had the unintended — but entirely predictable — consequence of preventing many eligible U.S. citizens and lawfully present immigrants from obtaining these documents.

Driver’s Licenses for All Immigrants: Quotes from Law Enforcement (PDF)

Law enforcement officials comment on the overall benefits of allowing immigrants to hold driver's licenses.

Summary of the Driver’s License Provisions in the REAL ID Act of 2005 as Made Part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief (PDF)

Provides a summary of the following: Information Required on the Driver's License.  |  Minimum Driver's License Issusuance Standards.  |  Immigration Requirements.

Questions and Answers about Driver’s Licenses Now That Final REAL ID Regulations Have Been Issued (PDF)

Congress passed the REAL ID Act as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 (HR 1268), and it was signed into law by the president on May 11, 2005. It provides that beginning three years after REAL ID’s enactment (May 2008), driver’s licenses cannot be accepted by federal agencies for any “official” purpose unless they meet the requirements of the act.