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DMV Gears up to Issue Driver’s Licenses to the Undocumented in California

In October of 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the bill authorizing the issuance of Driver’s Licenses to undocumented immigrants in the State of California. The law takes effect the first of the year, and January 2, 2015 will be the first day that immigrants can apply for licenses.

This topic will continue to be in the news and develop in the coming months, but for now, here are some frequently asked questions about the new program:

How does an applicant qualify?

According to the DMV, applicants must pass a written and vision test in order to receive a practice permit. The permit allows the immigrant to practice driving with a licensed driver. The applicant must take and pass a behind-the-wheel driving test. If he or she passes, they will receive a temporary license in the form of a paper print-out. Within about 6-8 weeks, the actual driver’s license should arrive.

What documents will be needed to prove one’s identity in order to apply?

DMV’s proposed list of required documents is still in the works, but it is clear the documents needed must sufficiently prove the immigrant’s identity and residency in the State of California. Immigrants rights groups have recently advocated that the list of requirements should not be overly burdensome. DMV has indicated that a final list may be published by the end of October, 2014, and the requirements must undergo review and approval by California’s Office of Administrative Law before implementation.

Will the new licenses look any different that any other California Driver’s License?

Following the rejection by the Department of Homeland Security of DMV’s initial proposed design, the design of the card has undergone changes. The new licenses will now contain the following statement on the front: “Federal Limits Apply”. The terms on the back of the card will include: “This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes.” The federal government wants to be sure there is no mistake that this is a state ID card only, not to be recognized for federal purposes such as voter registration or employment identification. 

How many licenses under the new program are expected to be issued?

The DMV has announced that over the coming three years, it is expecting to process about 1.4 million new licenses. Over 80 outreach events have been held by DMV statewide. DMV has sponsored public services messages on Spanish-language radio stations, and published Fact Sheets in over a dozen languages. 

In the past, immigrants in the country without authorization could not produce the necessary documents–such as a valid visa or social security card–in order to obtain a driver’s license under state laws. Decades ahead of the curve, Washington State changed its laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s license in 1993. In 2015, California and Connecticut will become the ninth and tenth states (plus Washington D.C.) to allow for the issuance of such licenses.

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