The Drive-Only License: Valid ID for Undocumented Immigrants?
Posted on: June 9th, 2015
The trend of issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants picked up speed beginning in 2014. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont, and the District of Columbia now grant so-called "drive-only" cards to residents who can’t provide proof of legal residency, or who don’t have a Social Security card or other documentation required for a standard license.
There has been huge demand already for what critics deride as a "driver's license for illegal immigrants." According to a recent article in the Merced Sun-Star, in just three months nearly half a million undocumented residents have already applied for California's new drive-only card.
The new drive-only cards have made headlines--and caused headaches for banks and other businesses that weren't sure if the new licenses counted as federal identification. Here we sort out some of the facts.
- Before issuing drive-only licenses, a state first passes legislation. This legislation varies from state to state. Based on the new laws, administrators determine the rules, appearance, and terminology that will apply to their state’s drive-only license.
- Depending on the state, people may refer to this type of license as a drive-only, driver’s privilege, or limited-purpose card. That “name” may or may not be printed on the license itself.
- People often expect a drive-only license to look noticeably different from a standard license. In some cases, a drive-only card is distinguished by a different color or bold banner on the front. But in other states, the drive-only card looks identical to the standard license, except for some simple black text on the front. Here are two examples:
An orange "DO" flags
this as a Drive-Only Card.
“FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” means
this is a Drive-Only Card.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Is a Drive-Only license valid as ID?
The answer to this question varies by state. A drive-only license that clearly states “Not valid for federal identification, voting, or public benefit purposes” makes it easier for banks, businesses, and government agencies to decide whether or not to accept it as ID. But when gray areas remain, DMV websites and industry guidelines can make it clear where to draw the line.