Alternative Driver’s Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants

Featured Collection

overpassGetty Images

I-25/I-40 interchange in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Overview

States are taking an increasingly active role in immigration-related policy. One issue several have addressed in recent years is whether to issue driver’s licenses to foreign-born residents who are not authorized to be in the United States. As of December 2015, 12 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Approximately 37 percent of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population lives in one of these jurisdictions.

In light of this trend, Pew conducted research and hosted conversations with state officials to examine the experiences of policymakers and state agencies as they design and implement these laws. Although Pew takes no position on federal, state, or local laws or policies related to immigration and driver’s licenses, these data and insights can help states make informed choices about whether and how to enact and implement similar laws  and can better position those that have already implemented laws to evaluate their processes and adjust course, if necessary.

This research captures the variety of approaches states have taken and the issues they have confronted. No single model for designing and implementing a driver’s license law fits all states, and officials across the country continue to learn and adapt. States are already reaching out to one another and consulting with outside experts and nontraditional stakeholders, including foreign consulates, community-based organizations, and law enforcement agencies, to gain insight into the populations that these laws target, possible design and implementation successes and pitfalls, and creative solutions. Using these resources, state policymakers can draw from the experiences of other jurisdictions as they make choices about driver’s license policies.

report
1x1placeholder

Deciding Who Drives

Learn More
Quick View

Deciding Who Drives

Learn More
drivers licenses
drivers licenses
Article

Driver’s Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants: 2016 Highlights

Quick View
Article

In August 2015, The Pew Charitable Trusts produced a first-of-its-kind report examining the experiences of states and localities that issue alternative driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. The analysis explored the choices these jurisdictions made on scope, eligibility standards, issuance procedures, and outreach and education as they designed and implemented their laws.

Deciding who drives
Deciding who drives
Article

Driver’s Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants: Experts Discuss State Experiences

Quick View
Article

On Oct. 15, 2015, experts from California, Delaware, and Nevada came to Washington to discuss their varied experiences designing and implementing laws that allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain alternative driver’s licenses.  The event built on an August 2015 Pew report highlighting the decisions and experiences of the 10 states and the District of Columbia that issue such licenses to this population. 

front car window
front car window
Article

Impacts of Licensing Unauthorized Immigrants

Quick View
Article

Previous research by The Pew Charitable Trusts examined the decisions that 10 states and the District of Columbia made when designing and implementing their laws to issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. Legislatures considering extending driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants debate such potential impacts as the number of insured drivers, public safety, and the economy. This brief provides an overview of the research exploring these potential effects.

PEW_OpenRoadUSA
PEW_OpenRoadUSA
Article

Factors Influencing the Number of Alternative Driver’s Licenses Issued by States

Quick View
Article

A Pew report published in August 2015 analyzed the experiences of 11 jurisdictions—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia—that issue alternative driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. Deciding Who Drives explored how these jurisdictions designed and implemented their laws and the major decisions they made.

Additional Resources

Spotlight on Mental Health

Test your knowledge about driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants
Test your knowledge about driver's licenses for unauthorized immigrants
Article

Driver’s Licenses for Unauthorized Immigrants

Quick View
Article

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.

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.