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Can Immigrants Obtain Driver's Licenses?

Texas is a BIG place, and as an immigrant who intends to live and work in the United States for any length of time, you need to be able to drive legally. That said, can immigrants obtain a driver’s license so they can drive to the places they need to go, such as work, home and school?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, each state issues driver’s licenses under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2005, Congress enacted what is called REAL ID, which created standards for driver’s licenses issued by the states. One such standard included evidence of “lawful status.”

As of this writing, 12 states and the District of Columbia have established laws that let unauthorized immigrants obtain a driver’s license if they provide certain documentation, such as a consular card, foreign birth certificate or passport and evidence of residency in the state.

These 12 states include a few that are not too far from Texas, such as Colorado, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico, but Texas itself is not one of them.

Obtaining a Driver’s License in Texas

In order for an immigrant to obtain a driver’s license or an identification card in Texas, he or she must be able to show proof of lawful presence in the United States.

Once the immigrant supplies the required documentation, their lawful presence will be verified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.

Examples of acceptable documents for lawful permanent residents:

  • A resident alien or permanent resident card
  • An immigrant visa and current foreign passport
  • A foreign passport (not expired)
  • An I-94 stamped with “Approved I-551 or “Processed for I-551”
  • A re-entry permit (I-327)

If you have come to the United States as an asylee, a refugee, or under Temporary Protected Status (TPS), you will need to provide certain documents in order to obtain a driver’s license in Texas.

Regardless of your immigration status, we invite you to contact a Plano immigration attorney from our firm for all the help you need to obtain a valid driver’s license.