Can I get a driver’s license if I am an undocumented immigrant? Are the rules the same in all states?

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Can I get a driver’s license if I am an undocumented immigrant? Are the rules the same in all states?

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For undocumented immigrants, understanding the ins and outs of driver’s license eligibility is crucial to living and working in the United States. Whether an undocumented immigrant can get a driver’s license depends on the rules in the state in which they live, as every state has different eligibility criteria and documentation requirements.

Why It Matters:

Driving isn’t just about getting from point A to point B: it’s about independence, livelihoods, and community. For undocumented immigrants, having a driver’s license opens doors to job opportunities, access to healthcare, and a sense of belonging.

The Benefits of Inclusion:

The states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses recognize the positive impact it has on individuals, families, and communities. Legal driving means safer roads, enhanced driver accountability, economic contributions, increased state and local revenue through vehicle registrations, and stronger community ties – all of which significantly outweigh any administrative costs or political concerns associated with expanding driver’s license eligibility.

Variation Across States:

Every state has its own rules regarding who can get a driver’s license. In some states, like California and New York, undocumented immigrants can apply, while others require proof of citizenship or lawful status. It is essential to know where your state stands.

Where It’s Allowed:

Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses and identification cards (IDs). These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont. Additionally, most states permit Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to apply for driver’s licenses and ID cards, provided they meet all other state eligibility requirements.

Where It’s Not Allowed:

In the other 34 states, proof of citizenship or lawful status in the United States is required. One state – Florida – has even gone so far as to implement a law specifically banning driver’s licenses for undocumented individuals. United We Dream has resources available for undocumented individuals who are considering traveling to Florida and recommends using extreme caution and having a safety plan in place when traveling while undocumented – which is good advice for undocumented individuals traveling in any state, not just Florida, and especially traveling within 100 miles of the Mexico or Canada border, where there are typically U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoints. We will publish a blog discussing this in more detail in the coming months.

Navigating the Process: Where to Find Information

Organizations like United We Dream provide valuable resources for immigrants seeking to understand their rights and options: https://unitedwedream.org/how-to-obtain-a-drivers-license-if-youre-undocumented/. Because eligibility and documentation requirements are subject to change, it is essential that individuals check with their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for the most up-to-date information for their state.

Example: Colorado’s Process:

In Colorado, if you lack proof of lawful presence but have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you can schedule an appointment with the Colorado DMV to obtain a driver’s license, permit, or ID by calling 720-295-2965 or using the DMV’s online scheduler: https://dmv.colorado.gov/AppointmentScheduling. Details on required documents are available on the Colorado DMV website: https://dmv.colorado.gov/standard-license-and-ID-cards.

Limitations to Keep in Mind:

In the 16 states, and D.C., where driver’s licenses are available to undocumented immigrants, these are ‘standard’ licenses only. REAL ID compliant licenses, which will be required for domestic air travel and access to certain federal facilities starting May 7, 2025, are not available for undocumented individuals because REAL ID compliant licenses require proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residence in the United States (or in some states, like Colorado, being a DACA recipient). Anyone who does not have, or cannot get, a REAL ID will need to present an acceptable alternative, such as a valid, unexpired passport or passport card issued by their home country, to pass through security checkpoints at airports and certain federal facilities. International travel, including to Canada and Mexico, will still require a valid, unexpired passport.

Legal Considerations and Support:

Any person who has falsified documents or used fraudulent information to obtain an SSN, ITIN, driver’s license, permit, or ID may be subject to criminal charges and should consult with an experienced immigration attorney before applying for a state driver’s license, permit, or ID card.


For immigrants and their families and communities, access to driver’s licenses isn’t just about driving – it’s about empowerment, safety, and inclusion. By understanding the rules and seeking support when needed, immigrants can navigate this aspect of life in the U.S. with confidence and dignity.

For current Joseph & Hall clients concerned about their eligibility for a driver’s license, permit, or ID in the state where you reside, please contact your attorney to discuss your particular case. If you have questions about eligibility or immigration status and are not represented by Joseph & Hall, please schedule a consultation with one of our experienced immigration attorneys by calling 303-297-9171 or use our online appointment scheduler: https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule/6c7a5321.

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