On December 4 2012 the Illinois senate approved a measure that would allow undocumented immigrants access to a driver’s license. Then on January 08, 2012, the Illinois house passed the bill. SB 957 now goes to the desk of Governor Quinn, who has said he will sign the legislation. It is expected to be implemented 8 months after the signature.

The bill proposes access to  Temporary Visitor’s Driving License (TVDL) for undocumented immigrants without a social security number. The TVDL already exists, and is currently granted to non-citizens authorized to be in the country for at least a year. This means that there will be people who are undocumented and with legal status that will have TVDLs, therefore making it impossible to identify someone without papers just using this document.

The information below is provided by the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition, and can also be downloaded in three info-sheets:

  1. What the new driver’s license law means (SB 957)
  2. TVDL Economic & Safety Benefits
  3. Highway Safety Campaign: Facts, Supporters, Bills

What requirements will applicants need to meet to get a TVDL?

To qualify for a TVDL, an undocumented immigrant must

  • Prove that she has lived in Illinois for at least one year;
  • Provide a valid unexpired passport or consular ID;
  • Provide other proof of her identity and residency that the Secretary of State might require;
  • Provide documentation that she is not eligible for a Social Security Number;
  • Pass all applicable vision, written, and road tests;
  • Show proof of insurance for the vehicle she uses for the road test;
  • Pay a $30 fee.

The Temporary Visitor Driver’s License

Illinois law requires anyone applying for a driver’s license to provide a Social Security number (SSN).  This law prevents 250,000 Illinois immigrant motorists who cannot get SSNs from getting licenses—even though they need to drive to support their families.

The Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) is an existing document that is now available to many  foreign-born individuals living in Illinois. Since 2005, Illinois has issued thousands of TVDLs to  individuals who do not have Social Security numbers but who have lawful immigration status. Such  individuals include foreign students, spouses and children of temporary workers, long-term visitors, and others who are not authorized to work under our immigration laws. Many of these individuals still need to drive on a regular basis to get to classes, take their children to school, go to places of worship, shop, or attend to other family and personal business.

TVDLs are visually distinct from regular licenses: TVDLs current use a purple color scheme, as opposed  to the red scheme used for regular licenses. TVDLs are also clearly marked as “not valid for

Making TVDLs available to undocumented motorists would still require these immigrants to pass all applicable tests (vision, written, and road) and require them to purchase insurance for their vehicles.

TVDLs would not brand people as undocumented, since unlike a driver’s certificate, the document is available more broadly to other individuals who cannot get regular licenses.  The risk of profiling associated with certificates available only to the undocumented should not exist with TVDLs, so undocumented immigrants will more likely apply for and use them.

To ensure security and prevent fraud, applicants for TVDLs would be required to submit a valid and verifiable passport or consular identification card, and provide additional proof of Illinois residence to deter individuals from falsely claiming Illinois residence to get a TVDL (Washington State follows this policy).

How Illinois Benefits When All Motorists Get Licensed

  • Police will be able to use licenses to identify motorists during stops and check their traffic records.
  • First responders and health care providers will be able to use the license to identify the individuals they are assisting.
  • Drivers will be more likely to stay at the scene of an accident to aid police and emergency workers and to exchange insurance information with other affected motorists.
  • Limited court time and jail space will be less burdened with cases of drivers who are there solely for driving without a license or insurance.  In Lake County, 470 (28%) of all motorists booked at the county jail for traffic offenses from October 2011 through September 2012 were undocumented immigrants who could not get licenses.
  • As more drivers get insured, the numbers of accidents involving uninsured motorists will decline, the costs of such accidents—and the premiums to cover them–will decline, and insurance rates will fall for everyone.  If half of the 250,000 unlicensed immigrants got licensed and insured, Illinois policy holders will save $46 million each year.

What Other States Are Doing

Washington and New Mexico already require all immigrant motorists to get driver’s licenses.  Since New Mexico made this change in 2003, its rate of uninsured motorists fell from 33% to under 9%.  New Mexico also saw a 32% decrease in alcohol-related crashes and a 23% drop in traffic fatalities.  Both states also use strong procedures to verify documents regarding identity and residence and guard against fraud and abuse.

A broad spectrum of law enforcement, business, labor, faith, and community leaders support requiring all Illinois motorists to get trained, tested, licensed, and insured. For more information about joining the Highway Safety Coalition please contact Rebecca Shi at ICIRR, 312 576-8032 or rshi