New Driver’s License Category for Undocumented Immigrants in California

Starting on January 2, 2015, any adult residing in California who is able to show proof of state residency and proof of identity (as well as pass the requisite skill-based exams) can get a driver’s license. This is the result of a new law, called Assembly Bill 60 (AB60), also known as The Safe and Responsible Driver Act. AB60 allows the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a California driver’s license to those who can prove their identity and their California residence, regardless of immigration status, so long as those applicants also meet all the other normal requirements for licensure, including passing the written and practical exams, and a vision test.

Until 1994, all immigrants in California could obtain a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. Then a law was passed requiring applicants show a valid Social Security number and proof of legal presence to obtain a driver’s license. The look of the new category of licenses will not drastically differ from other categories of California driver’s licenses; the front of the licenses will read “Federal Limits Apply” and the back will read, “This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.”

CA Immigrant Licenses Differ Slightly

There is, of course, still fear among some undocumented people that obtaining a state issued license will amount to creating a paper trail through which they can be located in the future. Any person driving with the new license may be stopped in traffic, but will not have to fear deportation or having their car impounded. Some estimate approximately 1.4 million new licenses will be issued. To meet the anticipated demand, the California DMV will add between 800 and 100 additional staff (an increase of 11%) and stay open longer hours. Four new DMV offices have also opened across the state. The fee for the new license is $33.