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Information Regarding Temporary Visitor Driver?s Licenses in Illinois

Background:
As many people know, Illinois began issuing Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (“TVDLs”) to undocumented Illinois residents without social security numbers in 2013. TVDLs were first issued in 2005 to immigrants with valid visas, and were extended to undocumented immigrants in December 2013. Although TVDLs cannot be used as a form of identification, they do allow you to drive legally, which reduces the risk of arrest by the police or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Before issuing a TVDL, the Illinois Secretary of State generally does a search to determine if the applicant ever obtained a driver’s license with a false social security number or name (either invented or belonging to someone else) or was convicted of a DUI or other relevant offense. In those cases, an administrative hearing before the Secretary of State and a probationary period may be required before a TVDL can be issued.

The TVDL presents a wonderful opportunity for many undocumented immigrants, but also raises some important questions. Some undocumented immigrants fear that their information could be shared with ICE. Others are uncertain about their eligibility if they already have a validly issued social security number. The Illinois Secretary of State has recently clarified these two important issues.

If I apply for a TVDL, will my information be shared with immigration?
No, it will not, except under very specific circumstances. The Secretary of State has confirmed again that it will not voluntarily share any information with DHS, and DHS cannot simply access the database of TVDL holders. If DHS requests any information, the Secretary of State will refuse to provide it unless DHS has a warrant or subpoena. Finally, even if DHS does have a warrant or subpoena, the Secretary of State will generally resist providing any information (although the still may be compelled to).

If I already have a social security number, can I still apply for a TVDL?
Yes, you can. The Secretary of State has recently clarified that even those who already have valid social security numbers can apply for a TVDL. You likely will have to explain why you have a valid social security number, but simply having a social security number should not prevent you from obtaining a TVDL. This presents an interesting problem for people who have lawful status. On one hand, someone in lawful immigrant status is eligible for a “regular” license, but if their immigration status may expire soon or may not be renewed, some may prefer to apply for a TVDL instead.

Please remember that there are other factors involved in the process for applying for a driver’s license in Illinois that were not discussed in this post. For additional information about TVDLs, please visit the Illinois Secretary of State website: http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/drivers/TVDL/home.html As always, if you would like to discuss your immigration status with an attorney at our office, do not hesitate to contact us.

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