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Can Undocumented Immigrants Obtain Driver’s Licenses in Minnesota?

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How Does the Newly Passed Minnesota Bill HF 4 Impact the Ability of Undocumented Immigrants to Obtain a Driver’s License?

Since 2003, undocumented individuals residing in Minnesota have unfortunately been unable to apply for Minnesota driver’s licenses and state ID cards. But that is about to change because the “Driver’s Licenses for All” bill was recently signed into law by Governor Tim Waltz. This law allows Minnesota residents to apply for a Minnesota State issued driver’s license or identification card starting in October 2023, regardless of their undocumented immigration status.

This bill represents a huge step forward for undocumented residents in the state. The law offers an avenue for individuals to apply for state issued identification cards and driver’s licenses with the possibility of becoming licensed drivers. This in turn may lead to better opportunities for undocumented individuals and may make the roads safer and more accessible for everyone. A Minnesota immigration attorney can explain what you need to know about this groundbreaking new law.

What Does the “Driver’s Licenses for All” Bill Do?

The new law amended the qualifications for applying for a state identification card and for a driver’s license. Individuals no longer have to provide proof of legal status in order to apply for a Minnesota State ID card or driver’s license.

Applicants for a driver’s license must still pass a written exam and a driving test and pay the associated fees. If applicants qualify to be issued a Minnesota driver’s license, a “Standard License” will be issued. The Standard licenses do not comply with Federal law and cannot be used as official identification for air travel, for crossing international borders, including Mexico and Canada, or for gaining re-entry into the United States. A standard license only allows the licensed individual to be eligible to operate a motor vehicle, provided the vehicle is registered and insured, or for identification purposes. Neither the State ID Cards nor the standard licenses will grant voting privileges and cannot be used for REAL ID purposes. A standard license also does not authorize individuals to operate most commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks and buses, which require a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

What Documents Are Required for an Undocumented Immigrant to Get a Driver’s License or State ID?

Those wishing to apply for a Minnesota standard license or an ID Card must provide satisfactory documentation to prove their identity when submitting their applications.

Minnesota requires that one primary and one secondary document or two primary documents be submitted along with a qualified English translation if the documents are not in English.

Newly Accepted Primary Documents

In addition to the currently accepted documents, individuals applying for a Minnesota ID Card or Driver’s license may furnish any one of the following primary documents as proof of their identity when filing their application, provided the document has satisfactory security features that make it impervious to alteration:

  • An unexpired foreign passport or a foreign consular identification document that includes a photograph of the applicant.
  • A certified birth certificate issued by a foreign jurisdiction.
  • A certified adoption certificate issued by a foreign jurisdiction that includes the applicant’s name and date of birth.

Newly Accepted Secondary Documents

A number of other documents an be used as secondary identification documents. TVA Law Offices can assist if questions arise about which document to use when filing an application.

Some options include, but are not limited to:

  • A notice of action on or proof of submission of a completed Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal (Form I-589) issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • A Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) approval notice issued by the DHS
  • A Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20) issued by the DHS 
  • A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019) issued by the DHS
  • Any of the following documents issued by a foreign jurisdiction:
    • A current driver’s license or one that has been expired for five years or less
    • A high school, college, or university student identification card with a certified transcript from the school
    • A certified copy of the applicant’s marriage certificate

Does Seeking a Minnesota Driver’s License Have Risks for Undocumented Immigrants?

A valid worry that undocumented individuals may have about applying for a Minnesota driver’s license or Identification card is whether it could endanger their current residency in the US or alert immigration authorities to their location or status. Minnesota Lawmakers considered this concern when drafting the new law. In essence, they wanted to ensure that applying for a license would not open an individual to prosecution or investigation by immigration authorities.

To this end, the card itself will “bear no indicator or design that relates to the lawful presence or the citizenship of the identification card holder.” The law also says: “A state agency or a political subdivision must not use the possession of a noncompliant driver’s license or identification card as (1) evidence of a person’s citizenship or lawful presence in the United States, or (2) the primary basis for investigation, detention, or arrest.”

Even the application form for the license will not record what documents were used to prove identity and will contain no information regarding citizenship or immigration status. Furthermore, the driver’s license agent cannot ask about immigration status or lawful presence in the US. In effect, the ID Card and the driver’s license should look no different from the same type of driver’s license held by a US citizen.

Notwithstanding these precautions taken by the Minnesota lawmakers in enacting the new law, it is important to note that the Federal government, who administers immigration law, may not agree.

If you have concerns about this aspect of the new Minnesota driver’s license and identification card law or need help applying, a knowledgeable immigration attorney from our firm would be happy to answer your questions. Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation.

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