Driver's Licenses

New Laws Extend Privileges Regardless of Status


In recent years, several states have enacted laws to issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized migrants. While in 2010, only three states were issuing driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status, by 2015, 10 states and the District of Columbia were doing so. This site examines the enactment and implementation of these licensing policies, cataloging the different ways legislatures, licensing agencies, advocates, and service providers are proceeding and the lessons that can be learned from their successes and failures.

We pay special attention to California, our home state, where legislation enacted in 2013 authorizes the issuance of driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status as of January 1, 2015. An estimated 1.4 million unauthorized immigrants are eligible for licenses in California, by far the largest number in any state. As the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and stakeholder organizations across the state begin serving these people, they can look here to draw upon the work done elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, California’s experiences are being chronicled to serve as an example for others. The site is divided into three main parts:

Jurisdictions That License All Residents

New Mexico
Washington, D.C.

  • Implementation Stories: Service Providers and Advocates Share Lessons Learned summarizes the common challenges and methods used on the ground by organizations assisting with implementation in the jurisdictions that have begun issuing driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. These lessons learned come from interviews of personnel in the states (and Washington, D.C.) that use a two-tiered licensing model.
  • Driving Privileges in California discusses the history of Assembly Bill 60 (AB 60), California’s driver’s license law, and its implementation, including the drafting of and feedback on DMV regulations and community organizations’ outreach efforts.
  • Driving Privileges State by State offers a side-by-side comparison of existing licensing policies, including each state’s document requirements, expiration times, fees, processes, estimated number of people eligible, and legal protections. The table is updated as new information is released.

In addition to these three main sections, articles at the bottom of the homepage provide discussion of implementation issues in other states, an explanation of the REAL ID Act and how it has created a model of separate licenses for authorized residents and undocumented immigrants, details about the “single-tier” licensing policies in New Mexico and Washington, and a gallery of the license designs.

In addition to the information here, other sites have aggregated information about these policies, including the National Immigration Law Center and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.. The California DMV’s site on AB 60 regulations, including policy and educational materials, is available in English and SpanishThe Drive California coalition site also provides resources for individual applicants, community education materials, and updates about AB 60.

If you or your organization would like to let us know about work you’re doing or materials you’ve developed to help get people licensed, contact


Photo credit to Coolcaesar


Lead Author: Katelyn Leenhouts, MPP
Research Assistants: Juan Pablo Lopez, Jennifer Moore, Edward-Michael Muna, and Jonathan Rivas
Editorial Manager: Anna Fischer,

About this project

The Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a university research center with the mission to address the challenges and opportunities of demographic diversity in the 21st century global city, has produced these featured digital publications using the USC Media Curator, an online publishing platform designed to bring together innovative research from across the University of Southern California and beyond. This project curates research relevant for immigrant service providers on the topics of Access & Use of TechnologyAccess & Use of Financial ServicesNotario Fraud, and Driver's Licenses for the unauthorized.


to be added

Latest News on Driver’s Licenses

As the 11 jurisdictions with two-tiered licensing models issue driver's licenses regardless of immigration status, with California and Connecticut implementing their policies most recently in Janua...more.