Prior to 1994, all Californians had the right to apply for a valid driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status in the U.S., according to the Drive California coalition (DriveCA). Driving to work, driving children to school and running errands were everyday tasks not riddled with the fear and insecurity of being pulled over and not having a license to show. Losing the ability to apply for a driver’s license the following year did not erase the need to be able to drive a car, but those who kept driving faced tickets, vehicle impoundment, arrest and possible deportation.
Assembly Bill (AB) 60, The Safe and Responsible Driver Act, was passed in 2013, signed by Governor Brown, to allow any eligible California resident to apply for a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status, starting Friday, January 2, 2015. Before AB60, state law required motorists to prove their identity and legal presence to obtain a driver license.
“DMV is committed to successfully implementing this new law to increase safety on California roads by putting licensed drivers behind the steering wheel,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto in a press statement. “Californians planning to apply for a new driver license under AB 60 should study for their exams and gather the required documents for proving identity and residency.”
To prove your identity and California residency, the DMV is requiring that you use a combination of documents. A current foreign passport and a consular ID, or an expired foreign passport and foreign birth certificate (translated by the consulate) can be used to prove your identity. If you do not have these documents you can obtain one from you Consulate, but should do so as soon as possible as the process may take a significant amount of time.
You can establish your California residency with one of the following documents: a lease, utility bill, tax return, medical record, record of financial institution or school records. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, if you don’t have these documents, you can bring one of several other documents and a DMV employee will interview you to ensure that the documents you do have are authentic and match your identity.
An AB60 license will have visible features distinguishing it from other licenses. It cannot be used for federal purposes, such as to enter restricted areas of federal facilities. The license will cost the same as other licenses at $33 for a Class C/M application fee. Potential license holders must pass the required vision test, driver license knowledge test, and behind-the-wheel drive test. State and local law enforcement agents cannot discriminate against someone with an AB60 license and are prohibited form using said licenses “to consider an individual’s citizenship or immigration status as a basis for investigation, arrest, citation or detention,” according to DriveCA.
DMV anticipates processing approximately 1.4 million additional driver license applications during the first three years after implementation of AB60. Since the law passed last year, the DMV has hired 900 employees, participated in nearly 200 public workshops and community meetings, reaching approximately 50,000 potential applicants and doubled the standard 45-day window to allow customers to make an appointment up to 90 days in advance.
For more information, please visit the DMV’s website.