Deciding Who Drives

State officials discuss policy approaches to providing driver’s licenses for unauthorized immigrants


Deciding Who Drives

U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants can routinely obtain and renew driver’s licenses, and some states have decided to allow unauthorized immigrants to do so as well. As of the summer of 2015, 10 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, and Washington—and the District of Columbia issue driver’s licenses to this population. Nearly 37 percent of unauthorized immigrants live in jurisdictions where they may obtain licenses.

State legislative activity on this issue has increased in recent years. In 2013 alone, eight states and the District passed laws making unauthorized immigrants eligible for driver’s licenses. (One was later repealed.) This year, Delaware and Hawaii passed similar laws, and they are preparing to implement them.

To inform the dialogue on whether and how to license unauthorized immigrants, The Pew Charitable Trusts will bring together policymakers, practitioners, and researchers to discuss the decisions that states must make to allow unauthorized immigrants to drive legally.

Pew experts will share findings about how the states that issue licenses to unauthorized immigrants have designed and implemented their laws. A panel discussion with officials from California, Delaware, and Nevada will follow. Because this issue is dynamic, these state experiences can inform how policymakers grapple with similar decisions in other states.

Register to attend in person or return to this page Thursday, Oct. 15, for the live webcast.


Terri Albertson, administrator, Management Services and Programs Division, Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles

Erika Contreras, chief of staff, Office of California State Senator Ricardo Lara

Scott Vien, director, Division of Motor Vehicles, Delaware Department of Transportation

Michele Waslin, officer, Pew


Adam Hunter, director, Pew


1–1:30 p.m. Registration and refreshments
1:30–3:00 p.m. Panel discussion
Date: Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015
Time: 1:30-3 p.m. EDT
Location: The Pew Charitable Trusts, 901 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20004
Test your knowledge about driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants
Test your knowledge about driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants

Driver’s Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants

Quick View

Some states have decided to allow unauthorized immigrants—those who do not have explicit permission from the U.S. government to reside in the country—to obtain driver’s licenses (also known by other names, such as driving privilege cards). Take our quiz and test your knowledge about this dynamic immigration policy issue. Answers are current as of March 2016.