No Longer California Dreamin’ : CA Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented a Reality

After the passage of Senate Bill SB 60, California will now issue driver’s licenses and identification cards to individuals who cannot demonstrate that their presence in the United States is lawful and/or cannot provide a social security number. After vetoing similar bills, Governor Gray Davis approved SB 60 on September 5, 2003, much to the delight of supporters of immigrants’ rights.

The law repeals the requirement that an applicant furnish a social security number in order to apply for a driver’s license or identification card. Now an applicant may also apply for a driver’s license using a federal individual taxpayer identification number, or other identifier or number that may be deemed appropriate by the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”), along with a specified affidavit signed under penalty of perjury. The law further requires that once an applicant obtains a social security number, he or she must provide it to the Department. Any information obtained by the Department regarding an applicant’s federal individual taxpayer identification number will not become public record and cannot be disclosed by the Department except in specified circumstances.

Also repealed is the requirement that lawful presence in the United States be established prior to the issuance of a driver’s license or identification card. Now an applicant need only present an identification document acceptable to the department, such as a valid passport. An individual who furnishes a taxpayer identification number will need to present a birth certificate or record of birth and one other specified document or, in cases where no birth records are available, two or more other approved documents.

The passage of SB60 comes as great news to the many thousands of individuals in California who in the past were barred from driving legally (and from obtaining car insurance). However, before dropping this fine publication and running to the local DMV, one should note that the law does not go into effect until January 1, 2004. Another concern that any undocumented person should take into consideration is that the “specified circumstances” under which an applicant’s information will be released include requests from government agencies that handle bankruptcy, child support, and public assistance. Finally, there is the very real possibility that the law will be repealed before anyone can benefit from it, as many of the leading candidates for Governor have promised to do if elected to office this fall. It would be wise to seek counsel from an experienced immigration lawyer before submitting any applications to the Department of the Motor Vehicles.