It used to be that you had to show proof of legal residency to get a CA driver’s license. That put a lot of pressure on undocumented immigrants – it’s pretty tough to get by in California without driving. So, lots of people without proof of legal residency were driving without licenses. That also means they were driving without insurance, since you need to show a valid driver’s license to get a policy.
This was an especially serious problem for California. More than 1/4 of its population are immigrants. Of those, more than 3,000,000 are undocumented. So last year, California’s legislature passed Assembly Bill 60 (AB-60), creating a procedure by which undocumented immigrants can get an official CA driver’s license. Let’s take a look at what it takes to get a license and what that license allows. Here are the highlights:
- AB-60 allows undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license
- The license cannot be used as ID, only for driving purposes
- No one can use an AB-60 driver’s license to determine your immigration status and you can’t be detained or arrested because you’re using one (although you can be detained for traffic violations just like any other driver)
- You must present valid proof of your identity and your California residency to get an AB-60 license
- AB-60 went into effect at the beginning of 2015
- During the first half of the year, approximately 883,000 licenses were issued and 443,000 of those were AB-60 licenses
How To Get A CA Driver’s License Without Documentation Of Your Legal Status
In order to get your CA driver’s license, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity and proof of California residency.
Proving Your Identity
There are three ways to prove your identity. First, you can provide one of these documents:
- A California driver’s license or ID card from October 2000 or later
- A valid foreign document that can be electronically verified, such as a Mexican Federal Electoral Card from 2013 or later
- A valid foreign and approved passport along with your Social Security Number (which the DMV will verify); the DMV maintains a list of approved passports in English and Spanish
If you don’t have one of the documents above, you can prove your identity by providing 2 of these documents:
- A national identification card from:
- Argentina (2009 or 2012 version)
- Chile (2013 version)
- Ecuador (2006 or 2009 version)
- El Salvador (2010 version)
- Guatemala (2012 version)
- Peru (2005 version)
- A national consular card from:
- Brazil (2010 version)
- Columbia (2015 version)
- Ecuador (2015 version)
- Guatemala (2002 version)
- A valid and approved foreign passport, without a verifiable Social Security Number
Finally, if you don’t have enough of those documents, you can provide other documentation for the DMV to review. You may also need to provide this extra documentation if the DMV decides that your other proof if ID isn’t enough. You’ll need to give them as many of the following as possible:
- School documents from US schools that include your date of birth
- School documents from a foreign school that include your date of birth, include a photo of you at the time the record was issued, and are sealed by the school
- Any document issued by or filed with the US government
- Court documents from any case where you were a party
- Income tax returns
- Marriage licenses or domestic partner registrations
- Divorce decrees
- A foreign passport, identification card, or consular card other than the ones specifically approved above
- Birth certificate
- Adoption records
The DMV will review all of these documents to determine if you’ve proven your identity. If so, it’s time to move on to proving your California residency.
Proving California Residency
To prove your residency in California, you’ll need to provide at least one document that includes your full name and the address on your CA driver’s license application, such as:
- a rental or lease agreement
- mortgage bills or a deed or title to your house
- utility bills
- school and medical documents
- employment documents
- insurance documents
- tax documents
- bank documents
- insurance documents
Essentially, the DMV is looking for a link between your identity and your home in CA – you must actually live in the state in order to get a license.
In order to get your CA driver’s license as an undocumented immigrant, you’ll need to make an appointment with the DMV and bring the documents you’re going to use to prove your identity and California residency. You’ll have to sign a form asserting that you aren’t eligible for a Social Security Number or other proof of legal residence and you’ll need to fill out an application.
If you’re under 18, you must show proof that you’ve completed a driver’s education course. People of any age must complete an eye exam and a written test on the rules and regulations of driving. Finally, you’ll have to give your thumbprint, have your photo taken, and pay an application fee.
Note that you must be at least 16 years old to get a license.
What Your AB-60 CA Driver’s License Allows
A license under AB-60 isn’t quite the same as a license issued to a documented resident. It has just one purpose: to prove that you’re legally allowed to drive in California. It can’t be used as an ID card. These licenses are marked as AB-60 cards, so there’s no way to fool the system. Just like anyone that lives in California, you can’t drive an unregistered or uninsured car with an AB-60 license, whether the car belongs to you or someone else.
Your AB-60 card cannot be used to determine your immigration status or citizenship. In other words, no one can arrest you simply for having that card. And if you get pulled over for a traffic violation, the police officer has to treat you like any other driver and can’t arrest you or detain you for reasons related to your immigration status.
Making The Road (And You) Safer
Since AB-60 went into effect, many undocumented immigrants have taken advantage of the opportunity to get an official CA driver’s license. In the first half of 2015, when the bill went into effect, California issued a total of 883,000 licenses. Of those, 443,000 were issued to undocumented immigrants – more than half!
Being an undocumented immigrant is a challenging thing, but this bill is designed to make it a little easier. With an AB-60 CA driver’s license, you no longer have to worry about the consequences of driving without a license or being unable to insure your vehicle. That makes the road safer for everyone.