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Virginia Allows Undocumented Immigrants to Get "Driver Privilege Cards"

The Commonwealth of Virginia recently passed a law allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue “driver privilege cards” to undocumented immigrants. Beginning on January 1, 2021, Virginia will join 15 other states that allow undocumented immigrants to receive drivers’ licenses. This new law will allow an estimated 400,000 individuals to qualify for drivers’ licenses.

There are several requirements for undocumented immigrants who are applying for a driver’s license, though. Not everyone will be able to receive a “driver privilege card,” and the expectations are similar to what is needed for a citizen or legal permanent resident to obtain a driver’s license.

When seeking a driver privilege card as an undocumented immigrant, the applicant must provide proof that they have:

  • Resided in Virginia for at least 12 months
  • Reliable or current income, such as paystubs
  • Paid income taxes in Virginia within 12 months of their application; or provide proof that they are claimed as a dependent on another individual’s tax return that was filed in Virginia 12 months before their application.
  • Current motor vehicle insurance or pay a fee to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Applicants must also take and pass the driver’s exam before they can be issued a driver privilege card, which will not be considered valid under the Federal Real ID law. However, a driver privilege card will be considered a valid form of identification in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Purpose of Driver Privilege Cards

One of the objectives of this legal update is to allow more drivers to legally purchase auto insurance and minimize the number of uninsured motorists in the state. Approximately 12% of all motorists in the country are uninsured, which can cause financial chaos after a crash. By issuing driver privilege cards and allowing undocumented immigrants to buy auto insurance, it could theoretically help protect all drivers from financial hardship in the event of a crash.

The update also makes it easier for undocumented immigrants to take a state-approved driver’s exam, which should make them better drivers. The more motorists out there who know the rules of the road, the better, and, hopefully, the less avoidable car accidents there will be.