How to obtain a Driver's License if you are undocumented

Currently, sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented people to obtain driver’s licenses. United We Dream has put together this guide for non-citizens and undocumented folks to understand if they are eligible, and what they need to do in order to be able to drive safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any further questions, please contact us.

There are several reasons why undocumented folks should think about getting a driver’s license if they are able to do so where they live: 

  • It allows you to safely drive in your state, and that may make it easier to get to and from a job, visit friends and family, run errands, and more. 
  • If there is an emergency, your driver’s license can be used to identify you and notify family members. 
  • Most people keep their driver’s licenses in bags or wallets that include other items like cash or checks or phones. If you lose that bag or wallet, your driver’s license may allow someone to return your items to you.

There are a few reasons why you may want to consider not getting a driver’s license. Privacy is a major concern. Most states have in place rules that protect driver data. These rules often include confidentiality and anti-discrimination protections. And the data that you provide while obtaining your driver’s license — things like your name, and where you live — are not public record. 

However, confidentiality protections vary from state to state. Some are stronger than others. It may still be possible for law enforcement or ICE to access driver databases depending on the state. If this occurs, it is usually in response to law enforcement or ICE looking for a specific person (meaning they can’t just copy and paste the database and start looking for people).

Also, the design of the driver’s licenses given to undocumented folks are sometimes different than standard driver’s licenses, which may draw attention to your immigration status. 

The best thing to do is to check out the information provided below, and the information from your state department of motor vehicles, and make the decision that is right for you.

There are three important things to remember: 

  • Every state has different rules and different document requirements for obtaining a driver’s license. It’s important to thoroughly review those requirements before applying to make sure you have everything you need. We’ve laid out some of the requirements for states that allow undocumented people to get driver’s licenses below. 
  • Make sure to review the rules on how your driver’s license can and cannot be used for identification. They differ from state to state. 
  • Your driver’s license may only be valid for driving in your home state. Make sure you check out the rules for your state before you drive across state lines. And even if your driver’s license does allow you to drive in other states, you shouldn’t assume law enforcement in those states will know the rules.

The federal REAL ID Act put in place  rules on forms of identification that can be used for federal purposes like flying, entering federal facilities, or registering to vote. As a result, many states have adjusted their driver’s license programs to issue driver’s licenses that are REAL ID compliant, while also leaving in place standard driver’s licenses that can be obtained by people who don’t meet the requirements to get a REAL ID license. 

DACA recipients and other folks who can prove lawful status in the United States are typically able to apply for any type of driver’s license, including REAL-ID compliant driver’s licenses, so long as they meet all other eligibility requirements for the state. All states have different document requirements for folks with lawful status to get a driver’s license, so make sure to review the requirements before applying.

No. REAL ID compliant licenses require proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the United States. You may be eligible to get a standard driver’s license depending on the state you live in.

Your driver’s license cannot be used as identification for the purposes of registering to vote in federal elections. Only citizens of the United States are able to register to vote in federal elections. There are some localities and municipalities that allow certain non-citizens to vote in local elections. The process for how you may be able to do that varies. The best thing to do is to check with your state or local board of elections to understand what options undocumented people have in your state. 

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