Renewing Your Driver's License? Prove Your Legal Status

Written by Andrew Traub

October 10, 2008

Immigrants must now prove they are in the United States legally to obtain new driver’s licenses and identification cards, which will indicate their status, under new Texas Department of Public Safety rules.

Because driver’s licenses can be used to gain access to bank accounts, board airplanes and enter various government buildings, the new rules are intended to enhance the security of the driver’s license and ID card and reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud.

In 2005, a federal law intended to fight terrorism set standards for how states issue driver’s licenses, requiring the 70 million or so Americans who get or renew licenses each year to provide more proof of who they are and where they live.  The law compelled states to more aggressively verify that information.

As of October 1, applicants who are not citizens must present immigration documents before they are issued a card.  After documents are verified, the license will be issued with the photograph positioned vertically instead of horizontally.  “Temporary Visitor” will also be written on the card as well as the date the temporary status expires.

When being issued a duplicate or renewal card, applicants will have to provide proof that their status has been updated or extended.  People whose status in the country is limited to six months or less will not be able to get licenses or ID cards.

In the past, people applying for a driver’s license or identification card were required to show documentation to establish identity but not legal status.

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