New driver’s license for undocumented immigrants takes effect Saturday. Here are all the details.

Posted Apr 30, 2021

Lives will change for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants Saturday, when the state Motor Vehicle Commission will begin accepting applications for driver’s licenses from people without federal immigration status.

After years of political fights and months of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey will become the 14th state allowing the state’s 450,000 undocumented residents to obtain standard driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards.

Nearly 750,000 people will be affected by the law, which passed in December 2019 and will also benefit certain senior citizens, formerly incarcerated residents, transgender people whose documents may not match their given gender identity, domestic violence survivors who are unable to retrieve legal documents, homeless people, veterans and low-income residents who cannot afford to recover legal papers.

“There will be no ‘special process’ or ‘special license’ for those seeking to be licensed without regard to immigration status,” said MVC Chief Administrator Sue Fulton. “Beginning May 1, the process for getting a standard NJ driver license will stay the same for all applicants – what will change are the documents you will be required to bring to an appointment to obtain an initial permit at an MVC Licensing Center.”

The law was set to go into effect in January, but was pushed back to May 1 after MVC ran into major backlogs and coronavirus outbreaks among staff, which shutters agencies every week.

Here’s everything you need to know about applying for a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status.

When can people who are newly eligible apply for a driver’s license?

Applications will open May 1 for undocumented immigrants with an Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN) or Social Security Number. Around June 1, the MVC will begin accepting notarized affidavits indicating ineligibility for a Social Security Number to meet the requirement.

Customers should not try to show up to the MVC and must schedule appointments online. There is expected to be an initial rush for appointments, which could lead to long waits for residents getting their first license or non-driver ID, but shouldn’t affect other transactions at the MVC.

Most forms can be printed and filled out online prior to coming to the appointment, which can make for a quicker visit.

What kind of documents should I provide?

Anyone applying for a drivers license, regardless of immigration status, must provide documents to pass the MVC’s six-point verification test for the Graduated Driver’s License program. The documents must prove identity and date of birth, proof of residency, and proof of ITIN or, beginning June 1, the notarized affidavit.

More resources are available in English and Spanish on the MVC’s website, and will be updated when regulations and dates are finalized. Additional languages will be added soon, said MVC spokesman William Connolly.

Criminal penalties for presenting altered and false document were expanded under the new law.

What kind of tests will I take?

Drivers must pass a written and vision test to get a valid permit, then will have three months of supervised driving before they can be eligible for the road test.

Following the road test, drivers who pass will get a probationary license for one year, which has some driving restrictions. After that year, the license can be upgraded to a basic driver’s license. Drivers under 21 will complete six months of supervised driving.

“Drivers need to learn the rules of the road and how to safely operate a vehicle. This takes time,” said Connolly.

What kind of ID can I get?

The law allows people to obtain standard driver’s licenses, which do not indicate citizenship status. Residents can also obtain an identification card compliant with the Real ID Act, permitting the holder to board domestic flights and will identify the holder’s citizenship status. It does not apply to commercial driver’s licenses.

What if I have my driver’s license from another country?

Some undocumented immigrants could have their road test waived if the foreign driver’s license is used as proof of driving experience. Drivers will still need to purchase a permit and take the vision and written test.

The license could also be used as part of the six points.

What are the privacy concerns for immigrant communities?

The new law prohibits the MVC from sharing personal information and photographs for immigration enforcement, except in certain circumstances, like a subpoena, warrant signed by a state or federal judge, or a criminal offense charge or final removal order.

Advocates who lobbied for the law pushed back on proposed regulations that would have created “burdensome requirements” for households that didn’t have SSN or ITINs to go to the federal agency for a letter stating their ineligibility. In January, the MVC decided to adopt regulations that allow for the affidavit option.

However, regulations are still being finalized for the affidavit and more guidance will go out before June 1, Connolly added.

Of the roughly 450,000 immigrants eligible for the licenses, it’s estimated that fewer than 100,000 file taxes using ITINs. The number dropped steeply during the Trump presidency, compounded with the difficulties of the pandemic.

Where can I report problems?

The public can report questions and issues in English or Spanish to [email protected] More information is available on MVC’s website, which has all information now available in Spanish, including frequently asked questions and a video guide.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-05-01 03:46:17 -0700