States issue driver’s licenses under the constitutional authority of the 10th Amendment. Congress enacted Real ID in 2005, creating standards for state-issued driver’s licenses, including evidence of lawful status. This brief provides a summary of state legislation authorizing driver’s licenses or authorization cards for unauthorized immigrants. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. These states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington—issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, foreign passport, or consular card and evidence of current residency in the state.
In 2022, Rhode Island enacted legislation extending driver’s licenses and identification cards to those without proof of lawful presence (SB 2006/HB 7939). In addition to Rhode Island, the Massachusetts legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of their bill allowing those without proof of lawful presence to obtain driver’s licenses (SB 4822/HB 4805). In the 2022 midterm election, Massachusetts voters were asked via ballot measure (Q4) whether the state should keep or repeal the new immigrant driver’s license law, and voters ultimately elected to uphold it.
In 2023, Minnesota became the most recent state to enact legislation allowing individuals to get driver’s licenses without proof of lawful presence (HB 4/SB 27).