Driver's Licenses

Driving Privileges State by State


As of 2015, 10 states and the District of Columbia grant driving privileges to undocumented immigrants. All but two (New Mexico and Washington) have adopted a two-tiered licensing model:

  1. A license for citizens and lawfully admitted non-citizens. This is the basic license that is most commonly issued. Identity requirements and security features are designed to comply with federal standards derived from the REAL ID Act. As such, this license serves as a valid form of identification under circumstances required by federal law such as passing a security check at an airport.
  2. A license for residents who cannot (or, in some states, choose not to) prove their authorized presence in the country. This license confers the right to drive but does not comply with the REAL ID Act and therefore is not a valid identity document for federal purposes, including boarding a commercial aircraft or entering a federal building. The two licenses are visually distinct.

Within this model, though, states have made different decisions about their requirements and implementation processes, which may affect the degree to which their programs succeed or fail. The table below shows eligibility standards for these “non-federal” licenses, a few ways they may deviate from standard licenses, the documents and processes required to receive them, and any explicit protections for holders included in the laws that enable them. Sources are available here. (To read about licensing in New Mexico and Washington, where the same standard licenses are issued to everyone, see Licensing Undocumented Immigrants in New Mexico and Washington.)


Not all information was available for all jurisdictions as of the last update on November 24, 2014. If you notice an omission or an error, please let us know.


Photo credit to Causa Oregon

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.


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