California Will Allow Driver's Licenses for Immigrants


California has become one of 10 states to allow immigrants in the country illegally to apply for special driver’s licenses. As of January 2, 2015, immigrants residing in California are able to get these licenses. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, tens of thousands of applications are ready to be processed.

Supporters of the law say it will alter immigrants' attitudes toward law enforcement and increase levels of civic engagement.

The necessary documents to apply for a special license in California are the following:

  • Documents to verify their identities and prove they reside in California.
  • Submit a thumbprint, pass vision and written exams, and schedule a behind-the-wheel driving test.

The special licenses will feature text explaining that they are "not acceptable for official federal purposes," such as boarding an airplane.

In the past, many people in the country without permission had been able to obtain California driver's licenses because applicants did not have to prove they had legal immigration status. That changed in 1993 with the passage of a law that required any first-time applicant to provide a Social Security number.

The auto insurance industry sees a great opportunity from this new law. Some of them are already creating advertising campaigns that are directly targeted to the people who are eligible to get their licenses.

Photo by: Jeff Turner.

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