Can I Get a Driver’s License Without Having a Green Card?

A driver’s license without having a Green Card is possible in some states.

State-issued driver’s licenses serve as proof of the right of drivers to operate vehicles. Driver’s licenses are required documents. Drivers can be issued expensive traffic tickets if driving without them.

Driver’s licenses are also used as official identification cards. IDs are necessary on various occasions like, for example, when applying for a job or when opening a bank account.

License requirements will vary from state-to-state. Most states do not issue driver’s licenses unless an applicant is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. U.S. Citizens can present their certificate of citizenship or naturalization as proof of identity when applying while permanent residents can show their Green Cards as proof. If a permanent resident has lost the Green Card it can be replaced.

Some states allow licensed drivers from other countries to drive legally for a year.

There are a handful of states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants:

  • Washington State
  • New Mexico
  • Utah (Not a driver’s license. Only a driving permit.)
  • Illinois

These states choose to provide undocumented immigrants with the right to drive legally because of safety issues. To get a driver’s license, applicants have to learn the rules of the roadways, pass driving tests, and before they start driving, get car insurance. Without driver’s licenses, undocumented immigrants drive without acquiring the proper knowledge and without insurance, and this makes the roads less safe for all drivers.

Most states continue to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. However, the recent program of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, might be available to some undocumented immigrants. Those granted DACA might be able to get driver’s licenses from the state they reside in.

DACA went into effect in August of 2012. This policy helps young undocumented immigrants who entered the country before the age of 16. The application process requires the submission of various documents to prove eligibility. These are the eligibility requirements:

  • Younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Came to the U.S. before turning 16 years old
  • Living in the U.S. without travel interruptions since June 15, 2007, up to the present time
  • Currently in school, have graduated, have a certificate of completion or GED
  • A clean criminal record without a conviction of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors

DACA is still a relatively new policy. Only 38 states have thus far declared they will officially grant driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. The four states mentioned above are not included in the list below since they already grant undocumented immigrant driving privileges.

The following states have approved driver’s licenses through DACA:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington D.C.
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

When applying for a driver’s license, proof of DACA will be required. DACA recipients receive work authorization and this is a document that would qualify as proof.

Two states have officially banned the issuing of driver’s licenses for DACA recipients:

  • Arizona
  • Nebraska

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