States issue driver’s licenses under the constitutional authority of the Tenth Amendment. Congress enacted REAL ID in 2005 creating standards for state-issued driver’s licenses, including evidence of lawful status. This is a summary of state legislation authorizing driver’s licenses or authorization cards for unauthorized immigrants (not to be used for federal identification purposes) and examples of limits or exceptions for legal immigrants’ licenses.
12 states and the District of Columbia enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain a driver’s licenses. These states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Washington—issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, a foreign passport, or a consular card and evidence of current residency in the state. Eight of these states extended driving privileges in 2013. In 2015, Delaware and Hawaii enacted legislation to give unauthorized immigrants driving privileges.
In 2013, Oregon enacted S833 that provided driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants. In 2014, voters approved ballot Measure 88 and suspended the law by 67 to 33 percent.
NCSL – States Offering Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants
Texas currently does not allow undocumented immigrants to attain drivers license.
The following criteria legislators could use as guidelines if Texas were to allow undocumented immigrants to attain drivers license:
- Issue distinctive drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants similar to 8 other states such as but not limited to: color, design, statement
- Make consumers pay for costs (page 14) of distinctive drivers license at no cost to taxpayers. Traditionally the cost has been anywhere between $30 to $50 for consumers.
- Make the length of validity the average of the 10 states. For example, there are 10 states with a total of 53 years which would mean the length of validity could be anywhere from 3 to 5 years for the state of Texas.
- Eligibility for a drivers license could be similar to other states (page 19). For example, all 10 of the current states accept a foreign passport or consular card.
- Texas, like 20 other states, offers in state tuition to undocumented immigrants. How are these students to arrive to class if public transportation is not available?